Development and Standardization of an Osteoradionecrosis Classification System in Head and Neck Cancer: Implementation of a Risk-Based Model

J Clin Oncol. 2024 Jun 1;42(16):1922-1933. doi: 10.1200/JCO.23.01951. Epub 2024 May 1.


Purpose: Osteoradionecrosis of the jaw (ORN) can manifest in varying severity. The aim of this study is to identify ORN risk factors and develop a novel classification to depict the severity of ORN.

Methods: Consecutive patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) treated with curative-intent intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) (≥45 Gy) from 2011 to 2017 were included. Occurrence of ORN was identified from in-house prospective dental and clinical databases and charts. Multivariable logistic regression model was used to identify risk factors and stratify patients into high-risk and low-risk groups. A novel ORN classification system was developed to depict ORN severity by modifying existing systems and incorporating expert opinion. The performance of the novel system was compared with 15 existing systems for their ability to identify and predict serious ORN event (jaw fracture or requiring jaw resection).

Results: ORN was identified in 219 of 2,732 (8%) consecutive patients with HNC. Factors associated with high risk of ORN were oral cavity or oropharyngeal primaries, received IMRT dose ≥60 Gy, current/ex-smokers, and/or stage III to IV periodontal condition. The ORN rate for high-risk versus low-risk patients was 12.7% versus 3.1% (P < .001) with an AUC of 0.71. Existing ORN systems overclassified serious ORN events and failed to recognize maxillary ORN. A novel ORN classification system, ClinRad, was proposed on the basis of vertical extent of bone necrosis and presence/absence of exposed bone/fistula. This system detected serious ORN events in 5.7% of patients and statistically outperformed existing systems.

Conclusion: We identified risk factors for ORN and proposed a novel ORN classification system on the basis of vertical extent of bone necrosis and presence/absence of exposed bone/fistula. It outperformed existing systems in depicting the seriousness of ORN and may facilitate clinical care and clinical trials.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoradionecrosis* / classification
  • Osteoradionecrosis* / etiology
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated* / adverse effects
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index