|Parotid Gland Removal /
This leaflet has been designed to improve your
understanding of your forthcoming treatment and contains
answers to many of the common questions.
If you have any other questions that the leaflet does not
answer or would like further explanation please ask a
member of the medical or nursing staff.
What is the Parotid Gland?
The parotid gland is a salivary
gland that lies immediately in
front of the ear. Saliva drains
from it through a tube that
opens on the inside of the
cheek next to the first upper
molar. The parotid gland is
most commonly operated on to
remove a lump.
What does the operation involve?
The treatment involves a general anaesthetic, which means
you are going to be put to sleep completely.
An incision (cut) will be made which runs from in front of
your ear and down into your neck. This incision heals very
well indeed; the incision is nearly the same as the one used
in “face lift” surgery, and in time the scar is likely to be
Once the gland has been removed the incision is held
together again with stitches. These need to be removed
around a week after surgery.
At the end of the operation the surgeon will place a drain
(plastic tube) through the skin in order to prevent any blood
clot collecting under the skin. Most patients will require 24 -
48 hours in hospital after the operation before the drain can
be removed and they can go home.
If your gland is being removed because of infection that is
caused by a stone, it may also be necessary to make a cut
inside the mouth to remove that stone.
How long will the operation take?
Removal of all or part of the parotid gland is a complicated
operation which can take up to approximately two hours.
What can I expect after the operation?
You usually need a night in hospital following the surgery. It
is unlikely to be very sore but regular painkillers will be
arranged for you. There is relatively little swelling following
parotid gland removal.
The removal of one parotid gland will not have an impact on
the amount of saliva that you produce. There are many
other salivary glands left in and around the mouth that will
still keep it moist.
Do I need any time off work?
It is usually advisable to take 1 - 2 weeks off from work to
recover from the surgery. During this time you should avoid
Is there anything that I need to do when I get home?
It is important to keep the wound dry for the first week
following surgery. This obviously means you need to take
care when washing or shaving.
Will I have a scar?
All cuts made through the skin leave a scar but the majority
of these fade with time and are difficult to see when they
are fully healed. It may take several months for your scar
to fade but eventually it should blend into the natural folds
and contours of your face.
What are the possible problems?
Infections. Infection is uncommon because of the
antibiotics that are used during and after surgery. You may
also be prescribed a short course of antibiotics to take
Bleeding. Bleeding is unlikely to be a problem. If it occurs,
it usually does so within the first 12 hours of surgery which
is why you need to stay in hospital overnight.
Facial Weakness / Facial Nerve Palsy. The Facial Nerve
runs directly through the centre of the parotid gland. It is
the nerve that makes the muscles of the face work.
Damage to some or all of the Facial Nerve can result in
weakness of the muscles on one side of your face (Facial
Nerve Palsy). Most nerve damage occurs as a result of
bruising since the Facial Nerve is held out of the way and
protected during surgery.
In most cases the nerve works normally after the surgery.
However sometimes (in about 15 - 20% of cases), where
the lump has been very close to the nerve, a temporary
weakness of the face can occur that can last for a few
weeks - months. In 1% of cases, there is a permanent
weakness of the face following this sort of surgery.
Numbness of the Earlobe. The nerve that supplies feeling
to your ear lobe (Greater Auricular Nerve) sometimes
requires mobilisation / removal to gain better access to the
parotid gland and as a result you may end up with a numb
or tingling feeling in your ear lobe. Often you can expect
your ear lobe to be numb permanently.
Hæmatoma. A blood clot can collect beneath the skin
(hæmatoma). This occurs in about 5% of patients and it is
sometimes necessary to return to the operating theatre and
remove the clot and replace the drain.
Salivary Fistula / Sialocœle. In 2 - 5% of patients, the cut
surface of the parotid gland leaks a little saliva on the skin
(salivary fistula), in which case this can also collect under
the skin (sialocœle). This problem usually settles down on
its own but can take several weeks to get better. If the
saliva collects under the skin, it is necessary to remove the
saliva, usually just with a needle, like a blood test, although
it may need to be repeated several times.
Frey’s Syndrome / Gustatory Sweating. Some patients find
that after this surgery their cheek can become red, flushed
and sweaty whilst eating. This is because the nerve supply
to the gland can re-grow to supply the sweat glands of the
overlying skin, instead of the parotid gland. This can usually
be treated easily by the application of a roll-on
antiperspirant or other simple non-surgical treatments.
Scar / Keloid. Although rare in parotid surgery, some
patients (those with darker skin) may develop a thick scar
(hypertrophic scar) or keloid.
Depression in front of the ear where the gland was. In
some patients, a depression / "dent" occurs at the site of
the removed lump.
Recurrence. Dependent on what was removed, there is
always a small chance of recurrence. Hence, the need for
regular reviews over several years.
Amputation / Traumatic Neuroma. After healing, there is a
chance that one of the nerves in the area may have been
cut and on healing, be scarred. They are often sensitive or
painful on pressure. If particularly painful, these have to be
Will I need further appointments?
A review appointment will be arranged before you leave
hospital. We will keep a close eye on you for several
months following treatment to make sure that nothing recurs
and your symptoms settle.
British Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons
Ear, Nose & Throat UK
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|Last Updated 11th August 2010