Parotid glands are salivary glands situated below the ear and to the front of it. Saliva secreted from this gland flows through a duct and is collected inside the mouth. After the age of 40 some benign growths generally occur in the parotid gland. After the age of 60 malignant tumors start growing in the parotid gland. Occurrence rate of malignant tumors in men and women is found to be equal. The surgery for removing the tumors in parotid glands is known as parotidectomy.
Preliminary diagnosis of parotid tumor is done by an ENT specialist based on the symptoms, medical history and physical examination. For confirming the preliminary diagnosis he may make use of CT (computed tomography) scan and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan.
The best treatment option for the removal of parotid tumor is a surgical procedure known as parotidectomy. Parotid gland has two important areas. They are the superficial lob and the deep lob. When only the superficial lobe is removed it is known superficial parotidectomy and when both the lobes are removed it is known as total parotidectomy. In case of benign tumor the doctor may wait for some months so that the tumor grows in size which makes its removal easier.
This procedure is carried out under general anesthesia. An incision is made near the front or back of the ear. The skin is folded back and the parotid gland so that parotid gland is exposed. Important facial nerves passing through this area are identified and they are kept protected to avoid any damage to them which can cause facial numbness. If only superficial lob is to be removed it is removed. If the entire parotid gland is to be removed then the entire gland is removed. If the tumor has spread to any of the facial nerves, then the bony parts behind the ear (mastoid) are also removed. If only superficial parotidectomy was performed then a drain is inserted in the area to drain any leaking saliva that may be present. Depending upon the skill of the surgeon and extent of the surgery, this procedure may take two to five hours.
After the surgery
The patient will be required to stay in the hospital for two or three days after the surgery. The incision site has to be kept very clean till the healing process is completed. If any difficulty is experienced by the patient in drinking fluids or smiling it has to be informed immediately to the doctor as it can be due to damage in the facial nerves. Facial numbness and similar symptoms following a parotidectomy subside within months and most of the patients become completely normal within a period of one year.