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Salivary Gland Biopsy

Definition

Salivary gland biopsy is the removal of a small piece of tissue or cells from a salivary gland for examination.

Alternative Names

Biopsy - salivary gland

How the test is performed

There are several pairs of salivary glands in different locations in the mouth: a major pair in front of the ears (parotid glands); two major pairs 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 cleaned with rubbing alcohol. A local anesthetic may be injected, and a needle is inserted into the gland. A piece or tissue or cells are removed and placed on slides, which are sent to a laboratory for examination.

A biopsy can also be done to determine the type of tumor in a salivary gland lump and to determine if the gland and tumor need to be removed.

A biopsy of the glands in the lips or the parotid gland can also be performed to diagnose diseases such as Sjogren syndrome.

How to prepare for the test

For a needle biopsy, there is no special preparation, although you may be asked not to drink or eat anything for a few hours beforehand. For surgical excision of a tumor, preparation is like that for any major surgery, including fasting for 6 to 8 hours prior.

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.

The biopsy for Sjogren syndrome will involve injection of the anesthetic in the lip or in the front of the ear and there will be stitches in the location(s) involved.

Why the test is performed

This test is done to determine the cause of abnormal lumps or growths of the salivary glands and to diagnose Sjogren syndrome.

Normal Values

There is normal salivary gland tissue anatomy with no abnormal growths or inclusions.

Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What abnormal results mean

  • Salivary gland tumors
  • Sjogren syndrome

What the risks are

  • Allergic reaction to the anesthetic
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Injury to the facial or trigeminal nerve (rare)
  • Numbness of the lip

Review Date: 3/3/2009

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Information developed by A.D.A.M., Inc. regarding tests and test results may not directly correspond with information provided by UCSF Medical Center. Please discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.