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Salivary Gland Surgery
(Parotidectomy; Submandibular Sialoadenectomy; Sublingual Gland Surgery)
Pronounced: sal-E-var-ee gland SUHR-jah-ree
by Marjorie Montemayor-Quellenberg, MA
Salivary glands secrete saliva into your mouth through ducts. The salivary glands are found around the mouth and throat. The main glands are:
This surgery is done to remove a salivary gland. There are different types of surgeries, depending on which gland needs to be operated on:
Reasons for Procedure TOP
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.
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure may occur. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Before the surgery, your doctor may:
Arrange a ride to and from the hospital on the day of your surgery
If you are having surgery on larger salivary glands, such as the parotid gland, general anesthesia 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.
Description of the Procedure TOP
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 superficial parotidectomy 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 total parotidectomy 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.
Sublingual Gland Surgery
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.
Minor Salivary Gland Surgery
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.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
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 5 hours.
Will It Hurt? TOP
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Post-procedure Care TOP
At the Care Center
Right after surgery, the staff may:
During your stay, the care center staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
When you return home, do the following for a smooth recovery:
Call Your Doctor TOP
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:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
American Cancer Society
Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Salivary gland surgery. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed May 13, 2016.
Salivary glands. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed May 13, 2016.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/23/2014
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