Introduction Neck dissection (ND) technique preferences are not well reported.
Objective The objective of this study is to educate practitioners and trainees about surgical technique commonality and variance used by head and neck oncologic surgeons when performing a ND.
Methods Online survey of surgeon members of the American Head and Neck Society (AHNS). Survey investigated respondents' demographic information, degree of surgical experience, ND technique preferences.
Results In our study, 283 out of 1,010 (28%) AHNS surgeon members with a mean age of 50.3 years (range 32-77 years) completed surveys from 41 states and 24 countries. We found that 205 (72.4%) had completed a fellowship in head and neck surgical oncology. Also, 225 (79.5%) respondents reported completing more than 25 NDs per year. ND technique commonalities (>66% respondents) included: preserving level 5 (unless with suspicious lymph nodes (LN)), only excising the portion of sternocleidomastoid muscle involved with tumor, resecting lymphatic tissue en bloc, preservation of cervical sensory rootlets, not performing submandibular gland (SMG) transfer, placing one drain for unilateral selective NDs, and performing a ND after parotidectomy and thyroidectomy and before transcervical approaches to upper aerodigestive tract primary site. Variability existed in the sequence of LN levels excised, instrument preferences, criteria for drain removal, the timing of a ND with transoral upper aerodigestive tract primary site resections, and submandibular gland preservation. Results showed that 122 (43.1%) surgeons reported that they preserve the submandibular gland during the level 1b portion of a ND.
Conclusions The commonalities and variances reported for the ND technique may help put individual preferences into context.