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A radical neck dissection is just like it sounds: a radical procedure where the neck is dissected to remove cancerous growths. Read this lesson to learn more about the procedure and its potential complications or side effects.

What is a Radical Neck Dissection?

It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but a radical neck dissection is a surgical procedure that is used to remove cancerous tissues or growths in the head or neck. This is an extensive surgery, so it’s usually done once the cancer has already spread around the tissues in the head or neck, but not after cancer has spread to other parts of the body; removing the tissues is the most successful way to stop the cancer from spreading to other regions. In fact, a radical neck dissection is so thorough, it removes all tissues in the area, including the muscles, lymph nodes, nerves, salivary glands, and major blood vessels.A radical neck dissection is the most thorough of all the types of neck dissections. A modified neck dissection removes less tissue than a radical procedure, and a selective neck dissection removes the least amount of tissue of all these types of surgeries.The neck is home to about 1/3 of the body’s lymph nodes, which can develop cancerous growths.

During a radical neck dissection, as much of the cancerous tissue is removed as possible, and while this can include removing lymph nodes, the surgeon tries to save as many structures as is feasible.

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A radical neck dissection involves removing tissues from this region of the head and neck.
radical neck dissection region

Possible Complications and Side Effects

As previously mentioned, a radical neck dissection is a major surgical procedure. As such, there are a number of potential complications that can occur. The surgery may include removing important structures, such as the sternocleidomastoid muscle, which is responsible for flexing the head, internal jugular vein, and salivary gland.

It also has control over the spinal accessory nerve, which is responsible for controlling parts of speech, swallowing, and head and neck movements. The most common complications from radical neck dissections include bleeding, post-surgical infections, and adverse reactions to medication.Side effects vary based on which structures are removed.

If the spinal accessory nerve is removed, the person might lose some functioning of his or her speech and upper body movements. Removing part or all of the sternocleidomastoid muscle can physically change the appearance of the neck and make moving the head forward more difficult. If certain nerves are removed or damaged during the surgery, this can result in loss of feeling or movement of the tongue and/or lip as well as ear numbness.

If these side effects are severe, a follow-up surgery may be performed to try to fix them.

Lesson Summary

A radical neck dissection is just that: a radical dissection of the neck that is a major surgical procedure. It’s performed to remove cancerous tissues or growths in the head or neck area to prevent the spreading of cancer to other parts of the body. The amount of tissue taken out depends on how much can safely be removed, and some surgeries remove all of the tissue from one side of the neck, including muscles, nerves, lymph nodes, and blood vessels. Complications can include bleeding, post-surgical infections, and adverse reactions to medications. Side effects vary based on what structures are removed.

These can include disruptions in movement or speech, numbness, or even the need for follow-up surgeries.Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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