Parotidectomy is the surgical removal of part of the parotid salivary gland. The operation is performed under general anaesthesia. During the procedure, a skin incision will be made in front of the ear and down to the neck. In most cases, the cut will be along the skin crease to minimise the scar. The affected portion of the gland will be removed aiming to preserve the facial nerve which sits between two layers of the gland. Its preservation is important as it controls the muscles of the face. At the end of the operation, a drain will be placed through the wound. You can eat and drink after the operation. Most patients will stay between 1-2 days in the hospital and be able to return to work in 2 weeks.

Risks specific to parotidectomy will include:

  • Facial weakness - the facial nerve passes through the gland and if the nerve is damaged during the operation, it will lead to weakness of the face. In most cases, the nerve works normally after the operation but if the lump sits very close to the nerve, a temporary weakness may last for 2-3 weeks and will recover.
  • Numbness of the cheek and ear - That will include the earlobe and may be permanent.
  • Salivary collection - Ocassionally a collection of saliva may form deep to the wound and may leak through the scar. If this occurs, the collection may require drainage using a fine needle. Sometimes this procedure may need to be repeated.
  • Bleeding - This is rare but if it occurs, the patient will need to return to operating theatre for drainage
  • Freys Syndrome - Some patients may become sweaty on the cheek whilst eating. This is because the nerve supply to the gland regrows to supply the sweat glands of the overlying skin instead of the parotid gland. This is often self-limiting and may resolve with time.

Parotid salivary gland

Image source: headandneckcancerguide.org