• 1. What is the parotid and what causes parotid lumps?
  • 2. Why do I need parotid surgery?
  • 3. What should I expect for Parotidectomy operation?
  • 4. How painful is the operation?
  • 5. What are the possible complications of Parotid operation?
  • 6. Will the tumour come back?

The parotid gland makes saliva; you have two parotid glands, one on each side, in front of your ears. You can read more about salivary gland tumours by following this link salivary gland tumour

Although 80% of the lumps in parotid gland are benign; in most cases I recommend that they be removed since they generally continue to grow, become unattractive and are more difficult to remove with increasing size. If you have Pleomorphic adenoma, it carries a small risk of turning into a cancer after many years. In addition there is always some concern about the exact cause of the lump until it has been removed because other investigations (biopsy or scans) can be inaccurate.

A parotidectomy is the surgical removal of part or all of the parotid gland. The operation takes 3 to 4 hours and is performed under general anesthetic, which means that you will be asleep throughout. A skin cut will be made which runs from in front of your ear and down into your neck. This cut can be of different size and placement, dependent on your tumour and your age. Some are shown below. This incision heals very well and the scar is likely to be minimal. After the operation you will have a drain (plastic tube) through the skin in order to prevent any blood clot collecting under the skin. This tube is usually removed after 24 – 48 hours following which you can be discharged home.

Most patients are aware of numbness around the skin of the side of the face for some weeks to months after the operation, and often you can expect your ear lobe skin to be numb permanently.

You will need 1 - 2 weeks off from work.

Most patients will experience mild discomfort after the operation that can be adequately controlled with Ibuprofen. Some patients find chewing painful after this operation. This usually settles down within a week. It is advisable to eat soft, easy to chew food during this period.

Serious complications after parotid surgery is very rare but may include

  • Facial weakness: There is a very important nerve, the facial nerve, which passes right through the parotid gland. This makes the muscles of the face move and if it is damaged during the surgery can lead to a weakness of the face (facial palsy). In most cases the nerve works normally after the surgery. However sometimes (in about 15-20% of cases), where the tumour has been very close to the nerve, a temporary weakness of the face can occur that can last for a few weeks.
    In less than 1% of cases there is a permanent weakness of the face following this sort of surgery for benign tumours.If you have a cancer (not the benign tumour) this risk is much higher. In some cases, the nerve has to be deliberately cut if the cancer is too close or if the nerve is already not working before the operation. . In such scenarios, I will discuss this before the operation with you.

  • Blood clot: A blood clot can collect beneath the skin (a haematoma). This occurs in about 5% of patients and it is sometimes necessary to return to the operating theatre and remove the clot and replace the drain.

  • Salivary collection: In 2-5% of patients the cut surface of the parotid gland leaks a little saliva, in which case this can also collect under the skin. If this happens it is necessary to remove the saliva, usually just with a needle, like a blood test, although it may need to be repeated. Occasionally you may need BOTOX injection or rarely another operation to manage it.

  • Frey’s syndrome: Some patients find that after this surgery their cheek can become red, flushed and sweaty whilst eating. This is because the nerve supply to the parotid gland can regrow in the wrong direction to supply the sweat glands of the overlying skin, instead of the parotid. This can usually be treated easily by the application of a roll-on antiperspirant. If this does not work, you may need BOTOX injection or rarely another operation to manage it.

There is a small risk of the tumour coming back (1 in every 200 to 300 patients).This risk is much higher if you are having a revision operation.


Northampton General Hospital
NHS Hospital
Northampton NN1 5BD
Tel - 01604 634700
BMI Three Shires Hospital
Private Hospital
Northampton NN1 5DR
Tel - 01604 620311


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Tel – 07504 818402