The parotid gland is one of the major salivary glands located in front of the ear lobe on each side of the face. Parotid tumors are usually benign, but can be malignant. With benign tumors, there is usually not pain or evidence of facial weakness. Though classified as benign, the tumor may continue to increase in size and become locally destructive or malignant. Complete surgical removal is the only treatment.
Since the facial nerve runs through and branches at the area of the parotid gland, this procedure is extremely delicate. Extreme care is taken not to injure the facial nerve, including the use of special facial nerve monitoring equipment in the operating room. In cases of malignancy, a total parotidectomy (removal of the whole gland) is performed, including removal of other surrounding structures if necessary in order to remove the entire malignancy. The major risk of this procedure is facial weakness or paralysis due injury to the facial nerve, but this is uncommon. Patients who have a parotidectomy usually are in the hospital overnight. Postoperatively, there may be some discomfort with chewing. A soft diet and analgesics are given until this resolves within a few days. If the tumor is malignant, radiation therapy may be necessary after surgery.