Patients undergoing head and neck cancer surgery after prior radiation or chemoradiation are at high risk for wound complications. Hypothyroidism is a known risk factor for wound complications, especially fistulae after salvage total laryngectomy. The purpose of this phase II clinical trial is to investigate the effect of perioperative intravenous levothyroxine supplementation on wound complications in patients undergoing salvage total laryngectomy.

Patients and Methods:

Euthyroid patients previously treated with radiation/chemoradiation undergoing total laryngectomy were prospectively recruited (n = 72). Postoperatively, intravenous levothyroxine was administered at a weight-based dose (1.3 mcg/kg/d) and transitioned to enteral dosing on day 7. Free T3, T4, and thyroid-stimulating hormones were collected, and dosing was adjusted accordingly. The primary endpoints were rates of fistula formation and fistula requiring reoperation, compared with matched historic controls. All patients were monitored for adverse effects.


The rate of postoperative hypothyroidism was 21% compared with 49% in a matched historic cohort. The rate of fistula formation was 18.1%, whereas the rate of fistula requiring reoperation was 4.2%, significantly lower than rates in our historic cohort (34.6% and 14.8%, respectively; P = 0.02 and 0.01). Postoperative hypothyroidism and recurrent clinical stage predicted fistula requiring reoperation in multivariate analysis; other acute phase reactants were not predictive. There were no observed adverse events related to levothyroxine supplementation.


Postoperative intravenous levothyroxine supplementation reduced rates of acute hypothyroidism, fistula formation, and fistula requiring reoperation in patients undergoing salvage total laryngectomy without adverse effects. Intravenous levothyroxine is a viable strategy to reduce wound complications in this high-risk patient population.

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