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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Reasons for Procedure
The surgery is done to:
- Remove a tumor in the gland
- Remove lymph nodes that could be cancerous
- Treat recurrent inflammation or infections in the gland
Problems from the procedure can happen. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Numbness of the face and ear, that may persist
- Damage to the nerve that controls the movement of muscles in your face
- Saliva 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.
- Swelling of your airway
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
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 1 week before the procedure.
Be sure that you have a ride to and from the hospital the day of your surgery.
Description of the Procedure
A cut will be made in front of the ear and down into the neck. The nerves in the area will be located and protected during surgery. There are 2 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 and affected tissue are removed. The nerve may be partially removed.
A total parotidectomy may also be done for chronic parotid inflammation or infection.
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.
How Long Will It Take?
- Superficial parotidectomy—3-4 hours
- Total parotidectomy—5 hours
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Average Hospital Stay
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.
At the Hospital
After the surgery is over, you will be moved to a recovery room. The hospital staff will monitor you. The staff will:
- Check your facial movements by asking you to smile or pout
- Show 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 hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping 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 same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your incision
To help ensure a smooth recovery:
- You may need to return to the doctor to have the sutures removed. This may be in 4-6 days.
- Follow your doctor's instructions.
Call Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, a lot of bleeding, or discharge from the surgery site
- Persistent nausea and/or vomiting
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you were given
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Spitting or vomiting blood
- New or worsening symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Chronic recurrent parotitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 28, 2015. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Ghorayeb B. Parotidectomy: frequently asked questions. Otolaryngology Houston website. Available at:
http://www.ghorayeb.com/parotidectomyfaq.html. Updated October 4, 2014. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Salivary gland tumors. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 22, 2015. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Surgical procedures: Neck dissection. Greater Baltimore Medical Center website. Available at:
http://www.gbmc.org/body.cfm?id=198. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 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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