(Partial Glossectomy; Total Glossectomy; Hemiglossectomy)
Pronounced: Gloss –ek-to-me
by Patricia Griffin Kellicker, BSN
A glossectomy is the surgical removal of the tongue. The surgery may be:
Reasons for Procedure
This surgery is used to treat tongue cancer when other treatments don't work.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review possible problems such as:
Your chances of problems may be higher for:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
Leading up to the surgery:
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep.
Description of the Procedure
A tracheotomy will allow you to breathe during and after surgery. This is an opening from the outside of your neck to your windpipe. A tube is placed into the opening so you can breathe. It's usually temporary.
For a partial, the doctor will remove the cancerous section. The rest of the tongue will be sewn so that there is no hole. Sometimes, a small graft of skin is used to fill the hole. This skin graft is stitched into place.
A total is more complex. The doctor will remove the diseased tongue. A piece of skin from your wrist will also be removed. This skin graft will be placed in the hole left by the tongue. Blood vessels will also be attached from any remaining tongue to the graft. This is to ensure blood flow.
Sometimes, a new tongue can be made from tissue removed from the thigh, forearm, or chest.
The lymph nodes in the neck may be removed in some people.
How Long Will It Take?
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Medicines will ease pain afterwards.
Average Hospital Stay
At the Hospital
You may have:
Your doctor may have you:
During your stay, the healthcare staff will take steps to lower your chances of infection such as:
There are also steps you can take to lower your chances of infection such as:
You will need to continue working with a speech and therapist. Your doctor may advise self-care measures and medicines to ease discomfort or prevent infection. Work with a dietitian to come up with a meal plan that works with your situation.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
National Cancer Institute
The Oral Cancer Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society
Dziegielewski PT, Ho ML, Rieger J, et al. Total glossectomy with laryngeal preservation and free flap reconstruction: Objective functional outcomes and systematic review of the literature. Laryngoscope. 2013;123(1):140-145.
Fujimoto Y, Hasegawa Y, Yamada H, Ando A, Nakashima T. Swallowing function following extensive resection of oral or oropharyngeal cancer with laryngeal suspension and cricopharyngeal myotomy. Laryngocope. 2007;117(8):1343-1348.
Head and neck cancer—patient version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck. Accessed July 2, 2018.
Kimata Y, Uchiyama K, Ebihara S, et al. Postoperative complications and functional results after total glossectomy with microvascular reconstruction. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2000;106(5):1028-1035.
Lip and oral cavity cancer treatment (adult). National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/patient/adult/lip-mouth-treatment-pdq. Updated June 28, 2018. Accessed July 2, 2018.
Mehta S, Sarkar S, Kavarana N, Bhathena H, Mehta A. Complications of the pectoralis major myocutaneous flap in the oral cavity: a prospective evaluation of 220 cases. Plastic Reconstruc Surg. 1996;98(1):31-37.
Surgery. Oral Cancer Foundation website. Available at: https://oralcancerfoundation.org/treatment/surgery. Accessed July 2, 2018.
Treatment of head and neck cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated January 26, 2018. Accessed July 2, 2018.
Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Donald W. Buck II, MD
Last Updated: 7/2/2018
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