Neck dissection


Neck dissection is surgery to examine and remove the lymph nodes in the neck.

Alternative Names

Radical neck dissection; Modified radical neck dissection; Selective neck dissection; Lymph node removal - neck; Head and neck cancer - neck dissection; Oral cancer - neck dissection; Throat cancer - neck dissection; Squamous cell cancer - neck dissection


Neck dissection is a major surgery done to remove lymph nodes that contain cancer. It is done in the hospital. Before surgery, you will receive general anesthesia. This will make you sleep and unable to feel pain.

The amount of tissue and the number of lymph nodes that are removed depend on how far the cancer has spread. There are 3 main types of neck dissection surgery:

Why the Procedure Is Performed

The lymph system carries white blood cells around the body to fight infection. Cancer cells in the mouth or throat can travel in the lymph fluid and get trapped in the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are removed to prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body and to decide if any more treatment is needed.

Your doctor may recommend this procedure if:


Risks for anesthesia and surgery in general are:

Other risks for this surgery are:

Before the Procedure

Always tell your health care provider:

During the days before your surgery:

On the day of your surgery:

After the Procedure

You will be taken to the recovery room to wake up after surgery.

The nurses will help you get out of bed and move around a little on the day of the surgery. You may start physical therapy while you are in the hospital and after you go home.

Most people go home from the hospital in 2 to 3 days. You will need to see your provider for a follow-up visit in 7 to 10 days.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Healing time depends on how much tissue was removed.


Callender GG, Udelsman R. Surgical approach to thyroid cancer. In: Cameron JL, Cameron AM, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:782-786.

Robbins KT, Samant S, Ronen O. Neck dissection. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 119.