Objectives. To determine the impact of the harmonic scalpel on intraoperative blood loss and operative time in selective neck dissection (SND) (levels I-IV) for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Study Design. Prospective randomized controlled trial. Setting. A single, tertiary care institution (Foothills Medical Centre) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Subjects. A total of 31 patients (36 neck dissections) were prospectively enrolled between January 2009 and March 2010. Methods. Patients were randomized to receive a neck dissection with either the harmonic scalpel or the traditional technique of using electrocautery and sharp dissection. The study included adult patients older than age 18 years diagnosed with HNSCC and who required an SND (levels I-IV). Study exclusion criteria included previous treatment for head and neck cancer and all patients unwilling or unable to provide informed consent. Primary clinical outcomes were intraoperative blood loss and operative time. Secondary outcomes included intraoperative complications and surgical drain output. Results. Intraoperative blood loss was significantly lower in the harmonic scalpel group compared to the traditional group (158 vs 61 mL, P = .02). There was no difference in operative time (81 minutes harmonic vs 85 minutes traditional) or total drain output (at both 48 hours and 1 week) between the groups. There were no intraoperative complications reported in either group. Conclusions. Results from this study suggest that the harmonic scalpel can reduce blood loss during SND for HNSCC. The harmonic scalpel had no impact on operative time, postoperative drain output, or complication rate.
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