Optimal management of advanced neck metastases as part of an organ preservation treatment approach for head and neck squamous carcinoma (HNSC) is unclear. Since 1989, our management paradigm for patients on organ preservation was modified to incorporate planned early neck dissection before radiation therapy for patients who did not achieve a complete response (CR) of neck nodes after induction chemotherapy (IC). The purpose of this study was to determine if planned early neck dissection is a safe and effective approach in the management of advanced nodal disease as part of organ preservation. Fifty-eight consecutive patients with advanced HNSC who were entered in organ preservation trials using induction chemotherapy and radiation with surgical salvage were studied. Median follow-up was 26 months. Of the 58 patients, 71% were stage IV. Patients were grouped by nodal response to chemotherapy and N class, and were analyzed with respect to patterns of recurrence, complications, and survival. Overall, the rate of CR of neck nodes was 49%. Fifty-one percent had less than a complete response of neck nodes after IC and required planned early neck dissection. There were no significant differences in patterns of recurrence, complications, interval time to start of radiation, recurrence, or survival rates between the CR and less than CR groups. These data suggest that planned early neck dissection for patients with less than CR in the neck after IC is not detrimental with respect to neck relapse or overall survival. We believe that planned early neck dissection can be safely incorporated into future organ preservation treatment protocols for patients with advanced head and neck carcinoma.
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