Medline: 4051112

American Journal of Surgery 150(4): 485-487, 1985.

Intraoperative radiotherapy in patients with recurrent head and neck cancer.

Vikram B, Strong EW, Shah JP, et al.


Patients with head and neck cancer who have a relapse of the disease above the clavicles can sometimes be salvaged by additional surgery. However, if all gross tumor cannot be removed during surgery or if the resection margins are unsatisfactory, the likelihood of salvage is remote, especially when postoperative radiotherapy is not feasible due to previous radiotherapy. Between 1979 and 1983, we employed intraoperative brachytherapy for 21 such patients. Sixteen patients had a recurrence after previous surgery and radiotherapy, and 5 after radical radiotherapy. All gross tumor could not be removed in 15 patients, whereas satisfactory margins could not be obtained in 6. In 11 patients, we delivered radiotherapy by a temporary implant of iridium-192 (median dose 4,800 rads in 6 days). In 10 patients, radiotherapy was delivered by a permanent implant of iodine-125 (median activity 13 mCi). Three patients (14 percent) had a relapse within the surgical field, whereas six others (28 percent) had a relapse elsewhere or had development of metastases. Complications developed in four patients (19 percent) and were fatal in one patient. The actuarial disease-free survival rate at 2 years was 55 percent, whereas the rate of local disease control was 81 percent. Our experience suggests that intraoperative brachytherapy can salvage certain high-risk patients with head and neck cancer.

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Dr. G. Quade