What is a radical neck dissection? when is it done?

What is a radical neck dissection? The surgeon removes a block of tissue from the collarbone to the jaw and from the front to the back of the neck. The large muscle on the side of the neck that is used for rotating, flexing or extending the neck is also taken out, along with the major vein on the side of the neck. Sometimes, a less drastic operation, called a supraomohyoid neck dissection is done. This takes out only the lymph nodes, the tissue surrounding the nodes and a muscle at the front of the neck. Another technique, called a functional neck dissection, saves the muscles of the neck, taking out only the lymph nodes and tissues surrounding them.
What kind of incision is made with a radical neck dissection? The incision depends upon what the surgery is for. It can run from below the ear to the collarbone. Everything in the front of the neck on one side or on both sides may be removed. This may include the lymph nodes, blood vessels, nerves, and the salivary gland under the jawbone.

Are there any things I should be careful about so as to avoid weakening the operation?

During the first four to six weeks you should direct attention toward avoiding those activities that can increase intra-abdominal pressure and put excessive strain on the abdominal wall. Thus, take cathartics to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. Don't lift heavy objects. To avoid coughing, stop smoking; a coughsuppressing medicine is helpful. Get plenty of rest. You can walk to the movies, be driven about, go visiting and do many other things. You can go on vacation provided you observe these elementary precautions. Relax and enjoy the convalescent period.

What kind of anesthesia is used?

You can make your choice about this if you have any preference. One method is an initial injection into a vein which will put you to sleep in a few seconds. In certain patients the procedure may be undertaken by deadening the area of incision and operating under local anesthesia.


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