Can Red Blood Cell Distribution Width Predict Laryngectomy Complications or Survival Outcomes?

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2022 Oct;131(10):1102-1108. doi: 10.1177/00034894211056117. Epub 2021 Oct 29.


Objective: Red blood cell distribution width (RDW), a reported biomarker for morbidity and mortality in chronic disease and following certain surgeries, has not been well-studied in head and neck cancer patients. The aim of the study was to examine the association of RDW with postoperative complications and survival among patients who underwent primary or salvage laryngectomy.

Methods: We analyzed a retrospective case series study of patients diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx treated with total laryngectomy. Survival outcomes were examined using Kaplan-Meier analysis.

Results: One hundred seventy-seven patients were included in the final analysis. The most common tumor subsite was the supraglottis (60%). On bivariate analysis, patients with RDW ≥14.5 had higher prevalence of non-surgical, systemic complications, including deep venous thrombosis, pneumonia, cardiovascular events, and difficulty weaning from mechanical ventilation. However, there was no significant difference in laryngectomy-specific post-operative complications, including pharyngocutaneous fistula, wound infection, stoma complications, and chyle leak. RDW was not found to be associated with survival outcomes following laryngectomy.

Conclusions: Among laryngectomy patients, RDW ≥14.5 is associated with higher prevalence of systemic morbidity, but not with specific local surgical complications or decreased survival.

Keywords: cancer; head and neck cancer; head and neck surgery; laryngeal cancer; post-operative complications; surgical outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Cutaneous Fistula* / etiology
  • Erythrocytes / pathology
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Laryngectomy / adverse effects
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Salvage Therapy