Early wound complications in advanced head and neck cancer treated with surgery and Ir192 brachytherapy

Richard V. Smith, Lane Krevitt, Su Min Yi, Jonathan J. Beitler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objectives: Brachytherapy, either as primary or adjuvant therapy, is increasingly used to treat head and neck cancer. Reports of complications from the use of brachytherapy as adjuvant therapy to surgical excision have been limited and primarily follow Iodine 125 (I125) therapy. Early complications include wound breakdown, infection, flap failure, and sepsis, and late complications may include osteoradionecrosis, bone marrow suppression, or carotid injuries. The authors sought to identify the early wound complications that follow adjuvant interstitial brachytherapy with iridium 192 (Ir192). Study Design: A retrospective chart review of all patients receiving adjuvant brachytherapy at a tertiary medical center over a 4-year period. Methods: Nine patients receiving Ir192 brachytherapy via afterloading catheters placed during surgical resection for close or microscopically positive margin control were evaluated. It was used during primary therapy in six patients and at salvage surgery in three. Early complications were defined as those occurring within 6 weeks of surgical therapy. Results: The overall complication rate was 55% (5/9), and included significant wound breakdown in two patients, minor wound dehiscence in three, and wound infection, bacteremia, and local tissue erosion in one patient each. All complications occurred in patients receiving flap reconstruction and one patient required further surgery to manage the complication. Complication rates were not associated with patient age, site, prior radiotherapy, timing of therapy, number of catheters, or dosimetry. Conclusions: The relatively high complication rate is acceptable, given the minor nature of most and the potential benefit of radiotherapy. Further study should be undertaken to identify those patients who will achieve maximum therapeutic benefit without prohibitive local complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-12
Number of pages5
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2000


  • Adjuvant therapy
  • Brachytherapy
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Iridium 192
  • Wound complications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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