(Partial Glossectomy; Total Glossectomy; Hemiglossectomy)
Pronounced: Gloss –ek-to-me
A glossectomy is the surgical removal of all or part of the tongue. The surgery may be:
Reasons for Procedure
This surgery is used to treat tongue cancer. It is done when other treatments have not been successful.
No procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a glossectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the surgery.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
Leading up to the surgery:
General anesthesia will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery.
Description of the Procedure
You will have a tracheotomy 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 so that you can breathe. 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. Sometimes the lymph nodes in the neck will also need to be removed.
How Long Will It Take?
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during the surgery. You will have pain during recovery. Ask your doctor about medication to help with the pain.
Average Hospital Stay
At the Hospital
While recovering at the hospital, you may receive the following care:
In addition, your doctor may have you:
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Call Your Doctor
After you leave the hospital, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
National Cancer Institute
Oral Cancer Foundation
Canadian Cancer Society
Fujimoto, Yet al. Swallowing Function Following Extensive Resection of Oral or Oropharyngeal Cancer With Laryngeal Suspension and Cricopharyngeal Myotomy. Laryngoscope . 117(8):1343-1348, August 2007.
Kimata Y, Uchiyama K, Ebihara S, et al. Postoperative complications and functional results after total glossectomy with microvascular reconstruction. Plast Reconstr Surg . 2000 Oct;106(5):1028-35.
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 & Reconstructive Surgery . 1996;98:31-37.
Oral cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/oral . Accessed July 23, 2013.
Surgery. Oral Cancer Foundation website. Available at: http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/facts/surgery.htm . Accessed July 23, 2013.
What you need to know about oral cancer, treatment. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/oral . Accessed July 23, 2013.
Last reviewed July 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD; Michael Woods, MD