Evaluating the role of prophylactic gastrostomy tube placement prior to definitive chemoradiotherapy for head and neck cancer

Allen M. Chen, Bao Qing Li, Derick H. Lau, D. Gregory Farwell, Quang Luu, Kerri Stuart, Kathleen Newman, James A. Purdy, Srinivasan Vijayakumar

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136 Scopus citations


Purpose: To determine the effect of prophylactic gastrostomy tube (GT) placement on acute and long-term outcome for patients treated with definitive chemoradiotherapy for locally advanced head and neck cancer. Methods and Materials: One hundred twenty consecutive patients were treated with chemoradiotherapy for Stage III/IV head and neck cancer to a median dose of 70 Gy (range, 64-74 Gy). The most common primary site was the oropharynx (66 patients). Sixty-seven patients (56%) were treated using intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). Seventy patients (58%) received prophylactic GT placement at the discretion of the physician before initiation of chemoradiotherapy. Results: Prophylactic GT placement significantly reduced weight loss during radiation therapy from 43 pounds (range, 0 to 76 pounds) to 19 pounds (range, 0 to 51 pounds), which corresponded to a net change of -14% (range, 0% to -30%) and -8% (range, +1% to -22%) from baseline, respectively (p < 0.001). However, the proportion of patients who were GT-dependent at 6- and 12-months after treatment was 41% and 21%, respectively, compared with 8% and 0%, respectively, for those with and without prophylactic GT (p < 0.001). Additionally, prophylactic GT was associated with a significantly higher incidence of late esophageal stricture compared with those who did not have prophylactic GT (30% vs. 6%, p < 0.001). Conclusions: Although prophylactic GT placement was effective at preventing acute weight loss and the need for intravenous hydration, it was also associated with significantly higher rates of late esophageal toxicity. The benefits of this strategy must be balanced with the risks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1026-1032
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 4 2010


  • Chemoradiotherapy
  • Gastrostomy tube
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Nutrition
  • Weight loss


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