Prophylactic dissection of level V in primary mucosal SCC in the clinically N positive neck: A systematic review

Timothy McLean, Stephen J. Kerr, Charles E.B. Giddings

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To review the evidence for level V dissection in the management of previously untreated mucosal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the head and neck presenting with nodal metastasis when level V is clinically uninvolved. Data Source: The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) were used to conduct a systematic review of the current literature, including all English language articles published after 1990. A literature search was performed on November 29, 2015, of Medline, EMBASE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), and the Cochrane Library. Review Methods: The search yielded a total of 270 papers. Strict inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied, leaving 20 eligible papers. Overall prevalence was calculated using random effect meta-analysis. Results: The overall prevalence of level V occult disease in the node (N)-positive neck, irrespective of subsite, was 2.56% (95% confidence interval 1.29–3.84) (2,368 patients and 2,533 necks). The prevalence of occult level V metastasis was up to 7.7% for oral cavity and 8.3% for oropharyngeal tumors. Five studies reported regional recurrence rates over variable time periods. There is exceedingly limited data on outcomes, such as spinal accessory nerve function, quality of life, and perioperative complications. Conclusion: Mucosal head and neck SCC presenting with nodal metastasis but with level V clinically uninvolved has a low prevalence of occult level V disease. Routine dissection of level V does not appear to be warranted; however, a definitive conclusion is unable to be drawn due to limited data on morbidity and oncological outcomes. Laryngoscope, 127:2074–2080, 2017.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2074-2080
Number of pages7
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • head and neck squamous cell carcinoma
  • Level V
  • mucosal squamous cell carcinoma
  • neck dissection
  • systematic review

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