Post-radiation therapy salvage surgeries are challenging for surgeons due to tissue fibrosis. The woody hardness classification is valuable in differentiating the degree of neck stiffness, but its clinical utility has not been evaluated. We applied it to patients undergoing salvage laryngectomy to study the impact of woody hardness on postoperative outcomes.
A retrospective observational study was performed on patients undergoing salvage laryngectomy between 2014 and 2019. Patients were assigned into the A (extremely woody hard), B (moderately woody hard), or C (mildly woody hard) woody hardness class. The primary outcome was pharyngoesophageal stricture development. Secondary outcomes included time to pharyngoesophageal stricture, pharyngocutaneous fistula development, time to pharyngocutaneous fistula, development of post-operative complications, and tracheoesophageal puncture complications.
Fifty-one patients were included in the study: Class A 1 patient, Class B 30 patients, and Class C 20 patients. The single Class A patient was grouped with the Class B patients. The development of a pharyngoesophageal stricture shows consistent negative association with woody hardness despite most analyses not reaching statistical significance. These associations are robust to a number of confounding variables in multivariate logistic and time to event analyses. Furthermore, the time to event analysis controlling for squamous cell carcinoma diagnosis led to a statistically significant association between woody hardness (i.e., A/B higher risk) and time to stricture (HR=5, p=0.02).
This study suggests that this classification may be useful in predicting pharyngoesophageal stricture formation in salvage laryngectomy patients and could be used to implement stricture preventive measures.