- Health Library
- Research a Disease or Condition
- Lookup a Symptom
- Learn About a Test
- Prepare for a Surgery or Procedure
- What to do After Being Discharged
- Self-Care Instructions
- Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Nutrition, Vitamins & Special Diets
Salivary gland biopsy
Salivary gland biopsy is the removal of a small piece of tissue or cells from a salivary gland for examination.
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
- Several minor pairs in 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 pain-killing medicine (anesthetic) may be injected, and a needle is inserted into the gland. A piece of 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
- 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. However, you may be asked not to drink or eat anything for a few hours beforehand.
For surgical excision of a tumor, preparation is the same as for any major surgery. You will not be able to eat anything for 6 to 8 hours before the surgery.
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.
The salivary gland tissue is normal, with no abnormal growths.
What Abnormal Results Mean
- Salivary gland tumors
- Sjogren syndrome
- Allergic reaction to the anesthetic
- Injury to the facial or trigeminal nerve (rare)
- Numbness of the lip
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.