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Salivary gland transfer surgery can reduce xerostomia in oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma patients undergoing primary chemoradiation. A potential drawback of salivary gland transfer is the treatment delay associated with the surgery, and its complications. This study aimed to determine whether the treatment delay affects patient survival and to evaluate patient quality of life after salivary gland transfer.
A retrospective analysis of 138 patients (salivary gland transfer group, n = 58; non-salivary gland transfer group, n = 80) was performed. Patient survival was compared between these groups using multivariate analysis. Salivary gland transfer patients were further evaluated for surgical complications and for quality of life using the head and neck module of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire.
Salivary gland transfer and non-salivary gland transfer patients had comparable baseline clinical characteristics. Salivary gland transfer patients experienced a median treatment delay of 16.5 days before chemoradiation (p = 0.035). Multivariate analysis showed that this did not, however, correspond to a survival disadvantage (p = 0.24 and p = 0.97 for disease-free and disease-specific survival, respectively). A very low complication rate was reported for the salivary gland transfer group (1.7 per cent). Questionnaire scores for the item ‘xerostomia’ were very low in salivary gland transfer patients.
The treatment delay associated with salivary gland transfer surgery does not negatively affect patient survival. Oropharyngeal squamous cell patients have an excellent quality of life after salivary gland transfer.