A parotidectomy surgical procedure to remove the parotid gland, which is the largest of the salivary glands and is located in front of the ears extending to the area beneath the earlobe. This surgery is primarily performed to treat tumors of the parotid gland. Most parotid tumors are benign, but the surgery is also used for malignant tumors.
The complexity and extent of the parotidectomy procedure depends on the size, location, and nature (benign or malignant) of the tumor. In a superficial parotidectomy, the surgeon removes the superficial (or outer) part of the gland where most parotid tumors are located. If the tumor is located in the deep lobe of the parotid gland or if it is large or malignant, a total parotidectomy, removing the entire gland, may be necessary.
One of the most significant considerations during a parotidectomy is the facial nerve, which runs through the parotid gland. This nerve controls movement on the same side of the face, and injury to it can lead to partial or total paralysis of the face, affecting the patient’s ability to close their eyes, smile, or make other facial expressions. Skilled surgeons will carefully monitor the facial nerve during surgery to minimize the risk of damage. After surgery, patients may experience numbness in the area around the incision, and they may have difficulty fully opening their mouth. Some patients may also experience Frey’s syndrome, where the skin around the parotid gland sweats while the person is eating. Post-surgery, patients will need regular follow-up appointments to monitor for any potential recurrence of the tumor or new tumors in the remaining salivary gland tissue.
Like any surgical procedure, a parotidectomy carries risks such as infection, bleeding, and complications from anesthesia. However, when performed by experienced surgeons, it’s generally a safe and effective procedure.