Patricia Griffin Kellicker, BSN
A glossectomy is the surgical removal of the tongue. The surgery may be:
This surgery is used to treat
when other treatments have not been successful.
Problems from the procedure occur, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as:
Your doctor may do the following:
Leading up to the surgery:
will be used. You will be asleep during the procedure.
You will have a
to allow you to breathe during and after surgery. This creates an opening from the outside of your neck to your windpipe. A tube is inserted through the opening to allow for air flow. It is usually temporary.
If part of the tongue needs to be removed, the doctor will remove this cancerous section. The remaining area of the tongue will be sewn so that there is no hole. Sometimes, a small graft of skin will be used to fill the hole. This skin graft will then be sewn into place.
If the entire tongue needs to be removed, this is a more complicated surgery. The doctor will remove the diseased tongue. A piece of skin from your wrist will also be removed. This skin graft will be placed in the hole left by the tongue. Blood vessels will also be attached from any remaining tongue to the graft. This is to ensure blood flow.
Occasionally a new tongue will be constructed from tissue removed from the thigh, forearm, or chest.
Sometimes the lymph nodes in the neck will also need to be removed.
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
While recovering at the hospital, you may receive the following care:
In addition, your doctor may have you:
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
You will need to continue working with a speech and therapist. Your doctor may advise self-care measures and medications to ease discomfort or prevent infection. Work with a dietitian to come up with a meal plan that works with your situation.
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
National Cancer Institute
Oral Cancer Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society
Dziegielewski PT, Ho ML, Rieger J, et al. Total glossectomy with laryngeal preservation and free flap reconstruction: Objective functional outcomes and systematic review of the literature.
Fujimoto Y, Hasegawa Y, Yamada H, Ando A, Nakashima T. Swallowing function following extensive resection of oral or oropharyngeal cancer with laryngeal suspension and cricopharyngeal myotomy. Laryngocope. 2007;117(8):1343-1348.
Head and neck cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck. Accessed May 23, 2014.
Kimata Y, Uchiyama K, Ebihara S, et al. Postoperative complications and functional results after total glossectomy with microvascular reconstruction.
Plast Reconstr Surg. 2000;106(5):1028-1035.
Mehta S, Sarkar S, Kavarana N, Bhathena H, Mehta A. Complications of the pectoralis major myocutaneous flap in the oral cavity: a prospective evaluation of 220 cases.
Plastic Reconstruc Surg. 1996;98(1):31-37.
Surgery. Oral Cancer Foundation website. Available at:
http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/treatment/surgery.php. Accessed May 23, 2014.
What you need to know about oral cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/wyntk-oral-cancer. Accessed May 23, 2014.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Donald Buck, MD
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Information Services. All rights reserved.