Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy Versus Elective Neck Dissection for Stage I to II Oral Cavity Cancer

John D. Cramer*, Shaum Sridharan, Robert L. Ferris, Umamaheswar Duvvuri, Sandeep Samant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Objectives: Sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) has been shown to be an accurate technique for staging the neck in early-stage oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma (OCSCC) and has been incorporated in treatment guidelines as an option instead of elective neck dissection (END). However, utilization of SLNB in the United States remains unclear, and existing prospective studies did not directly compare survival between SLNB and END. Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of patients with stage I to II OCSCC (cT1-2cN0cM0) who underwent staging of the neck in the National Cancer Data Base from 2012 to 2015. We compared the practice patterns and outcomes of patients who underwent SLNB versus END. Results: We identified 8,328 eligible patients with a median follow-up of 35.4 months. SLNB was used for 240 patients, or 2.9% of stage I to II OCSCC. Completion neck dissection was avoided in 63.8% of patients undergoing SLNB. SLNB was associated with reduced perioperative morbidity, with median length of hospital stay of 1.0 days versus 3.0 days after END (P < 0.001). Perioperative 30-day mortality was 0% after SLNB versus 0.7% after END (P = 0.42). Overall 3-year survival was 82.0% after SLNB and 77.5% after END (P = 0.40). After adjustment, overall survival was equivalent between patients who underwent SLNB versus END (adjusted hazard ratio 1.03, confidence interval 0.67–1.59). Conclusions: SLNB for stage I to II OCSCC is associated with reduced length of hospital stay and equivalent overall survival compared with END. Despite these attributes, SLNB remains rarely used in the United States. Level of Evidence: NA Laryngoscope, 129:162–169, 2019.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162-169
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • Oral cavity cancer
  • neck dissection
  • sentinel lymph node biopsy
  • squamous cell carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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