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Complications of parotid surgery


Parotid removal surgery or parotidectomy is a surgical removal of the parotid gland.

Usually, the parotid gland is affected by a tumor, infected or obstructing the saliva. Some traumas to the head might also lead to parotid injuries. Parotid gland may be removed if it gets on the way to a deep tumor or other structure in the brain, needed to be operated.

Parotid gland is the largest salivary gland producing saliva. Other salivary glands include submandibular and sublingual glands. The gland is settled between the jaw and the ear, in the parotid space, looking like a pyramid. This gland could get infected, swollen or develop tumors, benign or cancerous. Patients feel the tumor of parotid gland as a bump between the jaw and their ear.

Symptoms of Parotid Infections

Infected parotid gland may cause headache, fever, muscle and joint pains and swelling of the face, and patients can feel the lump under the chin or on the cheek. Tumor grows slowly and this is very painful for the patient. Enlarged salivary glands, dry mouth, sores and infections, sialoliths and tooth decay may indicate a parotid tumor.

Parotidectomy may be superficial, removing the outer, cancerous part of the gland. Total parotidectomy is used to remove parotid tumors which affect deep parts of the gland. Sometimes, this type of surgery requires the removal of the facial nerve as well. Possible complication may be weak facial movements, but the full recovery is expected after couple of months. There is also extracapsular parotidectomy, minimal invasive surgery that does not affect the facial nerve. Patients must be mobile in two planes, without facial nerve weakness or any previous parotid surgery, to be eligible for this type of surgical removal of the tumor.


Parotid surgery has all the risks of usual surgical procedures: risk connected to the use of anesthesia, bleeding during and after the surgery and possible infection. Some of the risk are associated with the illness and include facial nerve weakness, facial indentation, re-appearance of the tumor, numbness of the ear or face and Frey’s syndrome. Frey’s syndrome is a condition presented as sweating and redness of the cheek, close to the ear.

After the surgery, many patients feel numbness of the ear and earlobes.

Salivary fistula is a rare complication of parotidectomy, and patients have their saliva drained through a small opening in the surgical cut.

The surgery, especially if the patient is suitable for extracapsular parotidectomy, is leaving almost no scar. Risk and possible complications of the surgery are insignificant if compared to the risk of having a tumor or infection in your body.

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