Salivary gland biopsy

Alternative names
Biopsy - salivary gland

Definition
Salivary gland biopsy is a diagnostic procedure in which a small piece of salivary gland is removed for examination.

How the test is performed

There are several pairs of salivary glands in different locations: a major pair in front of the ears (parotid glands); two major pair on the floor of the mouth; and several minor pairs within the lips, cheeks, and tongue.

One method of salivary gland biopsy is a needle biopsy. The skin over the gland is scrubbed. A local anesthetic may be injected, and a needle is inserted into the gland. A small “core” of gland tissue is removed with the needle and sent to the laboratory for analysis.

A biopsy can also be performed when all or part of a salivary gland is removed because of a tumor. An examination of the removed tissue can help to determine the type of tumor.

A lip biopsy can also be performed to diagnose diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome.

How to prepare for the test
For a needle biopsy, there is no special preparation, although fasting for a few hours may be advised. For surgical excision of a tumor, preparation is like any major surgery, including fasting for 6 to 8 hours.

Infants and children:
The preparation you can provide for this procedure depends on your child’s age, previous experiences, and level of trust. For specific information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following:

     
  • Infant test or procedure preparation (birth to 1 year)  
  • Toddler test or procedure preparation (1 to 3 years)  
  • Preschooler test or procedure preparation (3 to 6 years)  
  • Schoolage test or procedure preparation (6 to 12 years)  
  • Adolescent test or procedure preparation (12 to 18 years) How the test will feel During a needle biopsy, there may be some stinging or burning if a local anesthetic is injected. Insertion of the biopsy needle may cause pressure or mild discomfort which should only last for 1 or 2 minutes. Afterward, the area may feel tender or be bruised for a few days. Why the test is performed This test may be performed to confirm the presence of Sjogren’s syndrome, or to determine the cause of lumps or abnormal growths of the salivary glands. Normal Values There is normal salivary gland tissue anatomy with no abnormal growths or inclusions. What abnormal results mean
       
    • Salivary gland tumors  
    • Sjogren’s syndrome What the risks are
         
      • Bleeding  
      • Infection  
      • Injury to the facial or trigeminal nerve (rare)  
      • Allergic reaction to the anesthetic

      Johns Hopkins patient information

      Last revised: December 5, 2012
      by David A. Scott, M.D.

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