Salivary Gland Surgery

(Submandibular Sialoadenectomy; Sublingual Gland Surgery)

Pronounced: sal-E-var-ee gland SUHR-jah-ree


Salivary glands make saliva for your mouth. They are found around the mouth and throat. Salivary glands include:

  • Parotid
  • Submandibular—submaxillary
  • Sublingual glands
  • Smaller glands located throughout the mouth area

Salivary Glands

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Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

There are different types of surgeries, depending on which gland needs to be operated on:

  • Parotidectomy—to remove the parotid gland
  • Submandibular sialoadenectomy—to remove the submandibular gland
  • Sublingual gland surgery—to remove the sublingual gland

Reasons for Procedure

The surgery may remove part or all of the gland to: is done to remove glands that have problems such as:

  • Treat health problems such as:
    • Infection
    • Blockage
    • Tumor
    • Stone or other gland disorder
  • Remove tissue for testing

Possible Complications

Your doctor will review problems that can occur such as:

  • Numbness of the face and ear after parotid gland surgery
  • Damage to nerves that control movement of muscles in your face
  • Saliva drainage—Saliva may leak through the incision after it has been closed.
  • Frey’s syndrome—This happens when salivary nerve fibers grow into the sweat glands. While eating, some people may notice sweating on the side of the face where the surgery was done.
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Swelling of the airway
  • Scarring
  • Fistula formation—This is an abnormal connection between 2 structures.

Talk to your doctor about factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as:

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Before the surgery, your doctor may:

  • Do a physical exam
  • Have blood tests done
  • Have x-rays or other imaging tests done

Talk to your doctor about any medicine, herbs, or supplements you are taking. Some may need to be stopped up to one week before the procedure.

Arrange a ride to and from the hospital.


General anesthesia may be used. This will keep you asleep. Local anesthesia may be used for smaller procedures. The area will be numbed but you will be awake.

Description of the Procedure


A cut will be made under the ear and down to the throat. Nerves in the area will be carefully moved aside. Damaged tissue will then be removed.

Submandibular Sialoadenectomy

A cut will be made in the neck below the jawline. The gland will be removed. If needed other objects like lymph nodes or stone will also be removed.

Sublingual Gland Surgery

A cut will be made through the mouth. If a large amount of tissue needs to be removed a cut will be made in the neck.

Once tissue is removed the area will be closed with stitches. A drain may be placed to let fluids leave the wound.

How Long Will It Take?

Time will depend on the type of surgery. Simple surgeries may take less than an hour. Complex ones can take up to 5 hours.

Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. There will be pain in the area after surgery. Medicine can help to manage the pain.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

Right after surgery, the staff may:

  • Check your facial movements by asking you to smile or pout.
  • Show you how to care for the drain.

During your stay, the care center staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered

There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding your healthcare providers to do the same
  • Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
  • Not allowing others to touch your incision

At Home

You will need to take it easy for the first few days. Certain actions like strenuous activity will need to be avoided. You will also need to follow care instructions for the drain.

Call Your Doctor

Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, a lot of bleeding, or discharge from the surgery site
  • Persistent nausea and/or vomiting
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you were given
  • Spitting or vomiting blood
  • New, unexplained symptoms

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
American Cancer Society


Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery


Parotidectomy. Memorial Sloan Ketterin Cancer Center website. Available at: Accessed December 28, 2018.
Salivary gland surgery. Cedars-Sinai website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed December 28, 2018.
Salivary glands. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed December 28, 2018.
Last reviewed May 2018 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 12/28/2018

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