Enhanced Recovery After Surgery Protocols for Head and Neck Cancer: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2022 Mar 15;1945998221082541. doi: 10.1177/01945998221082541. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocols aim to optimize the pre-, intra-, and postoperative care of patients to improve surgery outcomes, reduce complications, decrease length of stay, and more. We aim to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of ERAS protocols for head and neck cancer surgery with or without microvascular reconstruction.

Data sources: PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science databases were queried, and abstracts were screened independently by 2 investigators.

Review methods: This review was conducted in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines. We included comparative observational studies but excluded animal studies, case reports, and case series.

Results: Of 557 articles initially reviewed by title and/or abstract, we identified 30 for full-text screening, and 9 met the criteria for qualitative synthesis. Meta-analysis of length of stay revealed a mean decrease of 1.37 days (95% CI, 0.77-1.96; I2 = 0%; P < .00001) with the ERAS group as compared with non-ERAS controls. The standardized mean difference of the morphine milligram equivalent was 0.72 lower (95% CI, 0.26-1.18; I2 = 82%; P = .002) in the ERAS group vs controls. The quality of studies was moderate with a median MINORS score of 18.5 (range, 13.5-21.5).

Conclusion: Implementation of ERAS protocols can lead to decreases in length of stay and opioid drug utilization. However, further high-quality prospective studies of ERAS protocols are needed, especially with stratified analysis of outcomes based on the type of head and neck cancer surgery.

Keywords: ERAS protocol; clinical care pathway; enhanced recovery after surgery; head and neck cancer.