Liver disease in patients undergoing head and neck surgery: Incidence and risk for postoperative complications

John D. Cramer*, Urjeet A. Patel, Sandeep Samant, Amy Yang, Stephanie Shintani Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objectives/Hypothesis: Head and neck cancer patients have multiple risk factors for liver disease. However, little is known about the incidence of liver disease or the safety of surgery in these patients. Study Design: We conducted a retrospective cohort study using the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program from 2005 to 2013. Methods: We identified patients undergoing head and neck surgery and excluded them if preoperative laboratory data were missing. Patients were classified as having liver disease if their preoperative aspartate aminotransferase-to-platelet ratio index was ≥ 0.7, and as having advanced liver disease if their Model for End-Stage Liver Disease-Sodium score was ≥ 10. We compared the rate of postoperative complications using multivariable logistic regression. Results: Among 19,138 eligible patients, the incidence of any degree of liver disease was 6.8% for aerodigestive tract surgery and 3.3% for controls. The 30-day mortality rate after major head and neck surgery, which included composite resection; free tissue transfer; and total laryngectomy with advanced, mild, and no liver disease, was 14.6%, 3.0%, and 0.9%, respectively (P < 0.001). For nonmajor surgery, the mortality rate was 3.0%, 0.3%, and 0.3%, respectively (P < 0.001). On multivariable analysis, patients with advanced liver disease experienced a six-fold higher rate of 30-day mortality (odds ratio 6.1; 95% confidence interval, 2.9–12.8). Conclusion: There is a high risk to detect liver disease in patients undergoing head and neck surgery of the aerodigestive tract. Those with advanced liver disease are at high risk for perioperative mortality, and this risk should be judiciously considered in medical/surgical decision making and postoperative care. Level of Evidence: 2c. Laryngoscope, 127:102–109, 2017.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-109
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Liver disease
  • MELD
  • National Surgical Quality Improvement Program
  • cirrhosis
  • postoperative complications
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology

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