Effect of weight loss on short-term outcomes and costs of care after head and neck cancer surgery

Christine G. Gourin, Marion E. Couch, Jonas T. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Objectives: Patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) frequently present with weight loss secondary to dysphagia and malnutrition. We sought to determine the relationship between weight loss and in-hospital mortality, complications, length of hospitalization, and costs in HNC surgery. Methods: We analyzed discharge data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample for 93,663 patients who underwent an ablative procedure for malignant oral cavity, laryngeal, hypopharyngeal, or oropharyngeal neoplasms between 2003 and 2008. Results: Weight loss was significantly associated with dysphagia (relative risk ratio [RRR] = 3.0; p < 0.001), alcohol abuse (RRR = 2.0; p < 0.001), advanced comorbidity (RRR = 1.8; p < 0.001), Medicaid payor status (RRR = 1.6; p = 0.002), urgent or emergent admission (RRR = 1.7; p = 0.015), and major surgical procedures (RRR = 2.3; p < 0.001). Patients with weight loss had increased risks of acute cardiac events, pneumonia, renal failure, sepsis, pulmonary failure (RRR = 2.6; p < 0.001), and postoperative wound healing complications, including fistula, dehiscence, and surgical site infection (RRR = 2.0; p < 0.001). After we controlled for all other variables, weight loss was associated with significantly increased length of hospitalization and hospital-related costs. Conclusions: Weight loss is associated with increases in medical complications, surgical complications, length of hospitalization, and hospital-related costs in HNC surgical patients. Aggressive preoperative identification and treatment of underlying dysphagia and malnutrition may reduce the medical and surgical morbidity in this high-risk population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-110
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Complication
  • Dysphagia
  • Head and neck neoplasms
  • Malnutrition
  • Nationwide Inpatient Sample
  • Surgery
  • Weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of weight loss on short-term outcomes and costs of care after head and neck cancer surgery'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this