Brachytherapy can be employed in the primary or salvage treatment of head and neck cancer. The advantage of brachytherapy is the stereotactic limitation of radiation exposure to noninvolved tissues. Wound complications associated with brachytherapy have been discussed only sporadically in the literature. This retrospective study examines 28 patients, 20 for initial treatment and eight for salvage, with varying site and stage head and neck cancer treated with brachytherapy in addition to external beam radiation therapy and/or surgery. The overall complication rate was 50% (14/28), with infection and minor flap breakdown being the most common problems. Tumor site in the primary treatment group was the only significant factor in wound complications. In the salvage group complications were minor and primarily related to flap coverage of brachytherapy catheters.
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