Positive margins matter regardless of subsequent resection findings

Brendan Coutu, Evan Ryan, Dallin Christensen, Elliot Lawrence, Elizabeth Bradford Bell, Weining Zhen, Zafar Sayed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objectives: In the resection of oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma (OCSCC), an intraoperative positive surgical margin (SM) communicated to the head and neck surgeon necessitates further resection of the area of identified involvement to achieve a final negative SM. The prognostic implication of initial positive SM when the final SM is negative is understudied. Materials and Methods: We retrospectively reviewed 249 patients with non-metastatic (stage I–IVB) OCSCC who underwent a resection from 2010 to 2019 to assess the prognostic impact of an initial positive SM. Chi-squared analysis was used to evaluate the association between an initial positive SM and clinicopathologic parameters. A Kaplan–Meier analysis was performed to estimate patient outcomes with Cox regression analysis used to determine absolute hazards. Results: At a median follow-up of 28.4 months, the 2-year freedom from local recurrence (FFLR), disease-free survival (DFS), and overall survival (OS) rates were 82.1%, 63.5%, and 78.5%, respectively. Fifty patients (20.1%) had an initial positive SM which was revised to a negative SM on frozen and permanent sections by resecting further tissue while 12 patients (4.8%) had a final positive SM. An initial positive SM was independently associated with a worse FFLR (HR: 2.696, p = 0.004), DFS (HR: 1.57, p = 0.044), and OS (HR: 1.72, p = 0.029). Conclusion: An initial positive SM is independently associated with worse disease control and patient survival. A positive SM may be a surrogate for diffusely infiltrative disease as further malignancy identified on the re-resection specimen was associated with worse outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105850
JournalOral Oncology
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Adjuvant management
  • Head and neck
  • Margin
  • Oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oral Surgery
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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