Parotidectomy is surgery to remove all or part of the parotid gland. These glands make saliva. They are located in the jaw, in front of and below each ear.
The parotid gland is the largest of the salivary glands.
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The surgery is done to: Remove a tumor in the glandRemove lymph nodes that could be cancerousTreat recurrent infections in the gland
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like: Numbness of the face and earDamage to the nerve that controls the movement of muscles in your faceSaliva drainage—Saliva may pool in the upper neck after surgery. It may also drain through the incision after it has been closed. This is temporary.Frey’s syndrome—This happens when salivary nerve fibers grow into the sweat glands. While eating, some people may notice sweating on the side of the face where the surgery was done.Fistula—This is an abnormal connection between 2 structures.InfectionBleedingScarringSwelling of your airway
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as: SmokingDrinking
Chronic diseases, such as
Before the surgery, your doctor may: Do a physical exam and review your medical history
Order blood tests and have
Talk to you about any medications, herbs, and dietary supplements that you may be taking—You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
Be sure that you have a ride to and from the hospital the day of your surgery.
The doctor will make a cut in front of the ear and down into the neck. The nerves in the area will be located and protected during surgery. There are two types of parotidectomy surgery. The type you will have depends on why the surgery is being done.
If you have a tumor and it is above the facial nerve, then a superficial parotidectomy is done. The tumor and affected tissue can usually be removed safely without harming the nerve.
If you have a tumor that surrounds or grows into the facial nerve, a total parotidectomy is done. The tumor, affected tissue, and parts of the nerve are removed.
After all tissue has been removed, the area will be closed with sutures. A drain will be placed behind your ear. It will be used to remove any fluids, such as blood and saliva, from the wound.
Superficial parotidectomy—3-4 hoursTotal parotidectomy—5 hours
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Most will go home the day after surgery, once they are able to eat and walk around on their own. Some may need to stay longer if there are any complications.
After the surgery is over, you will be moved to a recovery room. The hospital staff will monitor you. The staff may: Check your facial movements by asking you to smile or poutShow you how to care for the drain, because you will have it when you go home
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as: Washing their handsWearing gloves or masksKeeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as: Washing your hands often and reminding your healthcare providers to do the sameReminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masksNot allowing others to touch your incision
Tto help ensure a smooth recovery: Follow your doctor's instructions for keeping the wound clean. This may include changing bandages.Follow the instructions for caring for your drain. It will usually be removed in 2-4 days.You may also need to return to the doctor to have the sutures removed. This may be in 4-6 days. When the sutures are out, clean the area with mild soap and water.Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor: Signs of infection, including fever and chillsRedness, swelling, increasing pain, a lot of bleeding, or discharge from the surgery sitePersistent nausea and/or vomitingPain that you cannot control with the medications you were givenCough, shortness of breath, or chest painSpitting or vomiting bloodNew or worsening symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Dictionary of cancer terms: Parotidectomy. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/?CdrID=44770. Accessed July 23, 2013.
Ghorayeb B. Parotidectomy: frequently asked questions. Otolaryngology Houston website. Available at:
http://www.ghorayeb.com/parotidectomyfaq.html. Updated May 24, 2013. Accessed July 23, 2013.
Surgical procedures: Neck dissection. Greater Baltimore Medical Center website. Available at:
http://www.gbmc.org/body.cfm?id=198. Accessed July 23, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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