Neurofibromatosis of the head and neck: Classification and surgical management

Kerry Latham, Edward P. Buchanan, Daniel Suver, Joseph S. Gruss*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: Neurofibromatosis is common and presents with variable penetrance and manifestations in one in 2500 to one in 3000 live births. The management of these patients is often multidisciplinary because of the complexity of the disease. Plastic surgeons are frequently involved in the surgical management of patients with head and neck involvement. Methods: A 20-year retrospective review of patients treated surgically for head and neck neurofibroma was performed. Patients were identified according to International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision codes for neurofibromatosis and from the senior author's database. Results: A total of 59 patients with head and neck neurofibroma were identified. These patients were categorized into five distinct, but not exclusive, categories to assist with diagnosis and surgical management. These categories included plexiform, cranioorbital, facial, neck, and parotid/auricular neurofibromatosis. Conclusions: A surgical classification system and clinical characteristics of head and neck neurofibromatosis is presented to assist practitioners with diagnosis and surgical management of this complex disease. The surgical management of the cranioorbital type is discussed in detail in 24 patients. The importance and safety of facial nerve dissection and preservation using intraoperative nerve monitoring were validated in 16 dissections in 15 patients. Massive involvement of the neck extending from the skull base to the mediastinum, frequently considered inoperable, has been safely resected by the use of access osteotomies of the clavicle and sternum, muscle takedown, and brachial plexus dissection and preservation using intraoperative nerve monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)845-855
Number of pages11
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - 4 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


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