Salivary glands secrete saliva into your mouth through ducts. The salivary glands are found around the mouth and throat. The main glands are: ParotidSubmandibular—submaxillarySublingual glandsSmaller glands located throughout the mouth area
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This surgery is done to remove a salivary gland. There are different types of surgeries, depending on which gland needs to be operated on: Parotidectomy
—to remove the parotid gland
Submandibular sialoadenectomy—to remove the submandibular glandSublingual gland surgery—to remove the sublingual gland
Salivary glands can become infected and blocked. They can also have a tumor, stone, or other disorder. Surgery is done to treat the problem by removing part or all of the affected gland. It may also be done to remove tissue for testing, like removing a tumor to test for cancer.
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 movement of muscles in your faceSaliva drainage—Saliva may leak through the incision after it has been closed.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.BleedingInfectionSwelling of the airwayScarringFistula formation—This is an abnormal connection between 2 structures.
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 historyHave blood tests doneHave x-rays or other imaging tests doneTalk 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.
If you are having surgery on larger salivary glands, such as the parotid gland,
may be used. This will keep you asleep and free from pain during the procedure. If smaller salivary glands are being removed, you may receive local anesthesia. Only the area that is being operated on will be numbed.
This procedure is often done in an outpatient setting. But, if your surgery is extensive or is on a larger gland, you may need to stay in a hospital.
There are 2 types of parotidectomy surgery. The type you will have depends on why the surgery is being done.
The facial nerve runs near the parotid gland. If you have a tumor and it is above the facial nerve, then a
will be done. The tumor and affected tissue will be removed without harming the nerve.
If you have a tumor that surrounds or grows into the facial nerve, a
will be done. The tumor, affected tissue, and parts of the nerve will be removed.
For both types of surgery, the gland will be reached by making a cut in front of the ear and into the neck.
A cut will be made in the neck below the jawline. The submandibular gland, and possibly surrounding lymph nodes, will be removed. If you are having the surgery to remove a stone that has grown in the gland, the stone will also be removed.
If you are having sublingual gland surgery, it is most likely because a type of cyst, called a ranula, needs to be removed. During this surgery, a cut will be made through the mouth to remove the cyst. If the cyst is large, a cut will also be made in the neck.
If you are having surgery to remove tumors from smaller salivary glands, the doctor will make a cut in the area where the gland is located.
The tumor and any surrounding soft tissue and bone that is affected will also be removed.
For all surgeries, when all tissue has been removed, the area will be closed with sutures. In some surgeries, temporary drains may be put in place to remove any fluids from the wound.
Removed tissue may be sent to a lab for testing. This is often done if a tumor was removed, since tests will determine whether the tumor is cancerous. Knowing this can help the doctor plan for your care and treatment after surgery.
This varies depending on which gland needs to be removed. Simple glands may take less than an hour to remove. Complex surgeries may take up to five hours.
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Right after surgery, the staff may: Check your facial movements by asking you to smile or poutIf you have a drain, show you how to care for it
During your stay, the care center 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
When you return home, do the following for a smooth recovery: Follow your doctor’s instructions for caring for your wound and drain.Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.You may also need to return to the doctor to have the sutures removed. After the sutures are out, clean the area with mild soap and water.
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the care center. 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 givenSpitting or vomiting bloodNew, unexplained symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Salivary gland surgery. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at:
http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Programs-and-Services/Head-and-Neck-Cancer-Center/Treatment/Salivary-Gland-Surgery.aspx. Accessed July 29, 2013.
Salivary glands. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at:
http://www.entnet.org/content/salivary-glands. Accessed July 29, 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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