To assess early oncological and functional outcomes after transoral laser surgery in patients with pharyngeal or pharyngolaryngeal squamous cell carcinoma.
Inception cohort, with a median follow-up of 24 months.
Tertiary university center.
Fifty-five consecutive patients with pharyngeal or pharyngolaryngeal squamous cell carcinoma (T1, 24 patients; T2, 28 patients; and T3, 3 patients) were included. Patients had to be eligible for open functional surgery, and exposure in suspension micropharyngoscopy had to be possible.
The pharynx and larynx were exposed with a bivalved laryngopharyngoscope, and the resection of the tumor was performed with a carbon dioxide laser coupled to a microscope. Neck dissection was performed in 43 patients. It was not attempted in the other 12 patients for the following reasons: N0 neck and severe comorbidities (n = 6), microinvasive cancer (n = 3), patient's refusal (n = 1), inoperable N3 disease (n = 1), and rapid local recurrence (n = 1). Eighteen patients (33%) received adjuvant radiotherapy: 12 for neck disease and 6 for positive resection margins.
Main Outcome Measures
Local control and overall survival at the median follow-up visit. Evaluation of complications, pain, and rehabilitation of swallowing capacity.
At a median follow-up of 24 months, the local control rate was 90%, and the overall survival rate was 78%. There were 16 early postoperative complications: recurrent aspiration pneumonia (n = 7); laryngeal obstruction, which required tracheotomy (n = 3); severe postoperative hemorrhage (n = 2); and cervical emphysema, which resolved spontaneously (n = 4). Feeding tubes were necessary in 37 patients. They were removed after a median period of 7 days. The median pain score was 4 of 10 during the first postoperative week and 0 of 10 after 4 weeks. The median hospital stay was 13 days (15 days for patients with neck dissection).
Transoral laser surgery for pharyngeal and pharyngolaryngeal squamous cell carcinoma is a safe and acceptable therapeutic modality in selected cases. Good local control and avoidance of tracheotomy can be expected in most cases. Oral food intake is immediate, but feeding tubes are required to avoid weight loss during the postoperative period. Frequent early problems include transient postoperative bronchoinhalations and pain.