Infection of the sponge-like parotid gland is uncomfortable but temporary, says Dr. Christine G. Gourin, otolaryngologist at the Medical College of Georgia.
But when the gland develops cancerous or benign tumors or stones that interfere with saliva flow, a rather tricky surgery to remove part or all of the gland is needed.
Surgical removal is delicate because the parotid sits between the cheekbone and jawbone and the facial nerve runs right through it, Dr. Gourin says of the gland which contributes a watery fluid to the saliva mix that helps lubricate the mouth and tongue and digest food.
The standard approach is making an incision in a skin fold in front of the ear that runs back into the hairline the same as for a facelift then using surgical scissors to remove the gland and surgical ties or electrocautery to stop bleeding.
A small pilot study published in Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery in 2004 described how the harmonic scalpel could reduce operative time and blood loss in patients who had benign disease and needed only a portion of their gland removed.
The new expanded study, published in the June issue of Laryngoscope, compared a larger mix of patients: 41 patients who underwent conventional surgery and 44 who underwent harmonic scalpel parotidectomy for benign or malignant disease and required superficial or total gland removal.
In the superficial group, the harmonic scalpel reduced blood loss during surgery, drainage afterward and facial nerve trauma, says Dr. Gourin, corresponding author on the study.
In the 13 patients who needed total parotidectomy, no significant differences were noted between the four who had conventional surgery and the nine who had harmonic scalpel parotidectomy. Rese
Contact: Toni Baker
Medical College of Georgia