Objective: To comprehensively examine the prognostic significance of extranodal extension (ENE) in human papillomavirus–positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (HPV-positive OPSCC). Methods: Retrospective cohort of cases diagnosed with HPV-positive OPSCC from 2010 to 2015 in the National Cancer Database. Inclusion of all OPSCC HPV-positive cases with appropriate International Classification of Diseases-0-3 codes that received surgery with a neck dissection. Univariate and multivariable analyses were conducted. Hazard ratios (HR) for the independent effects of ENE and N stage on overall survival were estimated by Cox proportional hazards regression. Results: Cases that were ENE-negative had the highest 5-year survival (92.6%; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 90.5%–94.7%). ENE-positive cases had the lowest 5-year survival (84.0%; 95% CI: 80.7%−87.4%). After adjusting for confounding variables, ENE-positivity was associated with almost twice the hazard of death (HR = 1.90; 95% CI: 1.35–2.67) compared to ENE-negative cases. Nodal (N) category 1, ENE-positive status was associated with an increased risk of death (HR = 1.88; 95% CI: 1.26–2.80) compared with N1, ENE-negative status. Compared to N1/ENE-negative cases, N2/ENE-positive cases had the poorest survival (HR: 2.93; 95% CI: 1.94–4.43). Both microscopic and macroscopic ENE were associated with worse outcomes compared to node-positive/ENE-negative status. Conclusion: The implementation of the American Joint Committee on Cancer 8th edition staging system provides a much-improved framework to develop and discuss treatment plans for HPV-positive OPSCC. We feel that careful consideration should be given to the importance of ENE in patients with HPV-positive OPSCC. Level of Evidence: 4. Laryngoscope, 130:939–945, 2020.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)939-945
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • AJCC staging
  • HPV-positive
  • extranodal extension
  • head and neck
  • neck
  • neck dissection
  • oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma
  • oropharynx


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