Background: Indocyanine green (ICG)-guided surgery has proven effective in the identification of neoplastic tissues. The objective of this study was to evaluate the influence of radiation therapy (RT) on node fluorescence during neck dissection in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).

Results: Twenty-four patients with planned neck dissection for HNSCC were prospectively enrolled. Eleven were included without previous radiation therapy and 13 after RT. ICG was intravenously administered in the operating room. The resected specimen was analyzed by the pathology department to determine the status of each resected lymph node (invaded or not). The fluorescence of each resected node was measured in arbitrary units (AU) on paraffin blocs. The surface area (mm2) of all metastatic nodes and of the invaded component were measured. The values of these surface areas were correlated to fluorescence values. A total of 707 nodes were harvested, the mean fluorescence of irradiated nodes (n = 253) was 9.2 AU and of non-irradiated nodes (n = 454) was 9.6 AU (p = 0.63). Fifty nodes were invaded, with a mean fluorescence of 22 AU. The mean fluorescence values in the invaded irradiated nodes (n = 20) and the invaded non-irradiated nodes (n = 30) were 19 AU and 28 AU (p = 0.23), respectively. The surface area of metastatic nodes and of the invaded component were correlated to fluorescence values even after previous RT (p = 0.02).

Conclusion: No differences were observed between the fluorescence of irradiated and non-irradiated lymph nodes, including invaded nodes. ICG-guided surgery can be performed after failed RT.

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