unspecified-3A neck dissection is a surgical procedure performed to treat cancer of the neck. During this surgery, performed in the hospital under general anesthesia, lymph nodes and surrounding tissue in the neck are removed to prevent a malignancy from spreading to other areas of the body.

The extent of the surgery depends on how far the cancer has spread. Since this type of cancer is likely to disperse microscopic deposits among nearby lymph nodes, it may be considered safer and more effective to remove more, rather than less, tissue.

Reasons For Neck Dissection

The lymphatic system fights infection in the body by transporting white blood cells to the diseased area. When the lymph fluid reaches a region where there is a malignancy, it may provide the cancer cells with a means of travel. In this way, cancer cells originally found in the mouth or throat may become trapped in the lymph nodes.

Neck dissections are performed in order to prevent further spread of the cancer, or metastasis. These operations may be appropriate for patients who have cancer of the mouth, tongue, thyroid gland or other regions of the neck or throat, particularly if the cancer has already spread to the lymph nodes or elsewhere.

Types Of Neck Dissection

Several varieties of neck dissection may be performed. Which procedure is appropriate in an individual case will be determined by the surgeon after thorough examination and careful diagnostic testing.

Selective Neck Dissection

If the patient’s cancer has not spread far, it is possible for the surgeon to remove only a few lymph nodes. During a selective neck dissection, surrounding muscle, nerve and blood vessel tissue in the neck may be preserved.

Modified Radical Neck Dissection

The most commonly performed neck dissection is a modified one.This procedure is all that is required for most patients in which the malignancy has spread only to adjacent lymph nodes. While all of the lymph nodes in the neck are removed during this operation, less neck tissue is taken out than during a radical dissection. In many situations, the surgeon may be able to leave the nerves, blood vessels or muscle tissue intact, resulting in less patient trauma.

Radical Neck Dissection

When the cancer has spread over a wide area, the neck dissection must be a more radical surgery. During this procedure, all tissue is removed from the jawbone,or mandible, to the collar bone, or clavicle, on the side of the neck. This excision includes removal of all muscle, nerve, blood vessel and salivary gland tissue in the area, including the jugular vein.

Risks Of Neck Dissection

There are risks involved with any surgical procedure. These may include:

  • Blood clots
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Breathing problems
  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia or medication

Risks particular to neck dissection may include:

  • Numbness, possibly permanent, on the side of the surgery
  • Drooping shoulder on the side of the surgery.
  • Damage to the nerves of the tongue and lips
  • Difficulty talking or swallowing
  • Difficulty with movement of the neck, arm or shoulder