Salvage surgery for recurrent nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Chih Hung Shu*, Henrich Cheng, Jiing Feng Lirng, Feng Chi Chang, Yee Chao, Kwan Hwa Chi, Sang Hue Yen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Objective: To evaluate the efficacy of salvage surgery in the treatment of recurrent nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) at the primary site. Study Design: A retrospective investigation of the outcome of salvage surgery for 28 patients with recurrent NPC after definite radiation therapy. Methods: The nasopharynx was approached anteroposteriorly by the transmaxillary approach (maxillary swing, maxillectomy) or inferior approach (midline mandibulotomy or median labiomandibular glossotomy), or laterally by modified facial translocation or transpterygoid approach; intentional ligation of the internal carotid artery was performed after establishment of extracranial-intracranial (EC-IC) bypass in one patient; postoperative irradiation was given to the patients with positive pathological margins. Results: Nine patients lived without disease for 20 to 93 months (mean interval, 52 mo) after surgery; among them, eight patients had T1 tumors that were resected totally by surgery via anteroposterior approaches and the other patient had postoperative irradiation to control the disease. Seven patients had local recurrence 8 to 21 months after treatment. Four patients developed distant metastases, including one patient with a T2b tumor that was totally resected through modified facial translocation approach with ligation of internal carotid artery. Eight patients died of other causes; internal carotid artery blowout was the cause of death in four of these eight patients. Conclusions: In most cases of recurrence, T1 nasopharyngeal tumors can be resected totally by anteroposterior approaches; for T2 or larger tumors, postoperative irradiation is usually necessary. Otherwise, facial translocation offers a better chance to completely resect the tumors. Internal carotid artery is better ligated if patients have received greater than 70 Gy irradiation or if the artery must be exposed during the surgery. We suggest that EC-IC bypass be used to avoid the possible complications (or cerebral ischemic stroke) caused by ligation of internal carotid artery. The transmaxillary approach is favored in the management of nasopharyngeal tumor recurrence with nasal cavity extension, and midline mandibulotomy is more suitable for resection of posterior margin of nasopharyngeal tumor recurrence. Facial translocation offers the widest operative field and is the most versatile approach for radical resection of nasopharyngeal tumor recurrence, but the surgeon should be skilled in the management of the facial nerves to reduce morbidity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1483-1488
Number of pages6
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2000


  • Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  • Salvage surgery


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