Necrosis of the Tongue as a Late Complication of Radiotherapy

Document Type : Case Report


1 Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Centro Hospitalar Vila Nova de Gaia/Espinho, Porto, Portugal

2 Department of Otorhinolaryngology Department, Centro Hospitalar de Vila Nova de Gaia/Espinho, Porto, Portugal

3 Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Centro Hospitalar Vila Nova de Gaia / Espinho, Porto, Portugal


Irradiation to treat head and neck cancer, causing chronic tissue damage, is associated with the development of vascular disease. Interest has risen over the effects of radiotherapy on major vessels, due to its high morbidity and mortality rate. However, small-vessel disease has been poorly studied and described.
Case Report
We present a case of a patient with bilateral necrosis of the anterior third of the tongue, occurring 3 years after chemoradiotherapy treatment for squamous cell carcinoma of the floor of the mouth. Contrast-enhanced CT scan showed multiple areas of stenosis concerning both external carotid arteries and their branches, and total opacification of lingual arteries. Conservative management was performed, with auto-amputation on the fifth day, which allowed healing by secondary intention.
Necrosis of the tongue appears as a rare late complication of radiotherapy, possibly due to its acceleration effect on the atherosclerosis process. Following small-vessel disease, one can assume a higher potential risk of major-vessel disease, highlighting the importance of a routine assessment and prophylaxis of thrombotic events.


Main Subjects

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