Since last year when I last wrote about this topic, there has been significant advances in terms of gland sparing, endoscopic or endoscope assisted minimally invasive salivary duct surgery. These techniques are typically used to remove stones or dilate narrowings in the ducts of saliva glands in and around the mouth.
Stones in the saliva glands located in the cheeks or under the jaw can block the flow of saliva. This can result in minor discomfort to severe pain and swelling. In some cases, stones can cause infections severe enough to require hospitalization. In other cases, conditions such as Sjogren’s disease or Juvenile Recurrent Parotitis can cause narrowing and inflammation of the saliva ducts.
Traditionally, many of these cases led to complete removal of the saliva glands such as parotid or submandibular glands which was invasive and harbored risks of surgical complications. These days with advent of continuously refined sialendoscopic techniques, use of ultrathin endoscopes and various tools such as microbaskets and graspers, stones can be removed in a targeted fashion without big incisions in the neck or removal of functional glands.
As techniques have refined over the past year, larger stones are now being retrieved with assistance of endoscopes through the mouth. Incisions in the ducts are more readily repaired with availability of specially made salivary duct stents. As a result, more and more cases are able to be done in a minimally invasive fashion using sialendoscopes. In addition we are beginning to identify benefits from dilation and delivery of steroids using sialendoscopes into the depths of the glands for patients suffering from inflammatory saliva gland diseases such as Sjogren’s or juvenile parotitis of childhood.
Size of the stone and its location are major determinants of the type of intervention required. The larger the stone, and the further along the duct that it is located, the more challenging its removal via minimally invasive techniques. Stones that are less than 5mm are considered small, 5-7mm medium sized, and >7mm are considered large stones. Presence of multiple stones may also present unique challenges. Discuss sialendoscopy with your Ear Nose and Throat doctor to see if they offer it and whether you would be a candidate for it.