Background. The common treatment of primary patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma is chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Surgery is reserved as salvage procedure for recurrent or persistent disease. Nevertheless, information on the outcome of these patients and the role of adjuvant reirradiation treatment is scarce. Methods. We conducted a meta-analysis to identify prognostic factors associated with outcomes of patients with recurrent nasopharyngeal carcinoma treated by salvage surgery. Results. The study group consisted of 779 patients from 17 published studies who met the inclusion criteria. The primary tumor classification at recurrence was T1-2 in 83 % of patients and T3-4 in 16.6 %. Regional lymph node metastases were present in 88 patients. The 5-year overall survival and local recurrence-free survival rates of the entire cohort were 51.2 and 63.4 %, respectively, with a distant metastases rate of 11.3 %. The 5-year overall survival was 63 % in patients receiving surgery and adjuvant radiotherapy compared to 39 % in patients receiving surgery alone (P = 0.05). Independent predictors of outcome on multivariate analysis were sex, N classification, surgical approach (endoscopic vs. open), adjuvant treatment, and margin status. Both endoscopic surgery and reirradiation were independent predictors of improved survival. Conclusions. More than half of the patients with recurrent disease can be salvaged by surgery. Margins status, and N and T classification are significant predictors of outcome. Multivariate analysis revealed that endoscopic surgery offers better outcome than open surgery for T3/4 disease in selected patients, and adjuvant reirradiation offers an additional survival advantage over surgery alone.
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