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Neck Dissection

A neck dissection is when the lymph nodes in your neck are removed surgically in order for them to be examined for cancerous cells. Lymph nodes are round structures that usually are found around blood vessels.  They drain infection from the body, and sometimes cancer cells as well. This surgery is usually recommended when there is a chance the cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.

    Preoperative Information

  • All surgeries carry risks that we try to minimize in the operating room. Your doctor will go over the specifics with you.
  • The Neck Dissection may be done at the same time as other cancer removal surgeries (e.g., laryngectomy, tongue surgery, mandibulectomy), and that way a patient does not need to have surgery twice. However, this varies depending on the stage of the cancer and other factors.  
  • Sometimes we recommend this only on the same side as the cancer, but other times we recommend it on both sides of the neck. This depends on the type, location, and stage of the cancer.

  Post-operative Information

  • If the neck dissection is done without other cancer removal surgery, then directly after surgery a patient is monitored for a few days in the hospital ward.  Usually, patients do not require intensive monitoring of the ICU (Intensive Care Unit)
  • If the neck dissection is done at the same time as other cancer removal surgeries, then the patient will be monitored for at least 24 hours in the Intensive Care Unit before being transferred to a Step-Down care unit.
  • The patient will have an incision on the side of the neck, and sometimes it curves underneath the jaw bone.  We try to hide the incision in skin wrinkles if possible.
  • A small plastic drainage tube (Jackson Pratt/JP Drain) is placed to prevent fluid from collecting in the surgical bed. (see Care After Surgery (Drains)) This is removed when the output is low (<30 mL per day).