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Introduction: The prevalence of malnutrition is high among head and neck cancer (HNC) patients and negatively impacts their quality of life, treatment, and survival rates. Objective: To identify preoperative nutritional variables capable of predicting postoperative complications in surgically treated HNC patients. Methods: This was a prospective cohort study of HNC patients referred for surgery as initial treatment. Results: Sixty patients were included in the study; they had a median age of 65.5 years, were mostly men (85%), and most had low education levels (90%) and low household income (78.3%). The incidence rate of severe postoperative complications (grades II, III, IV, and V according to the Clavien-Dindo grading system) was found to be 50%. The nutritional variables under investigation, namely calf circumference (CC), triceps skinfold, body mass index, and adductor pollicis muscle thickness were shown to predict postoperative complications in HNC patients, especially CC, which was found to be an independent predictor of complications (OR=0.8; 95%CI: 0.65–0.96). Each 1-cm increase in calf circumference was associated with a 20% decrease in the risk of postoperative complications. Conclusion: Our findings show the nutritional variables studied are useful in the prognostic assessment of HNC surgery.
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