Accessory or sublingual salivary gland biopsy to assess systemic disease: a comparative retrospective study

Kristof Berquin, Pierre Mahy, Birgit Weynand, Hervé Reychler
European Archives of Oto-rhino-laryngology 2006, 263 (3): 233-6
Minor salivary gland biopsies are commonly performed as part of the diagnosis of Sjögren's syndrome or other systemic diseases. Until now, a lip biopsy taken from inside the inferior lip has been the most often performed method to assess the accessory salivary glands. Because of the risk of damaging the inferior alveolar nerve and of harvesting non-contributive biopsies, for the past several years we have chosen the sublingual biopsy described by Adam. The aim of this study was to describe the indication and diagnosis and to evaluate work incapacity, pain and the complication rate among our salivary gland biopsies. In this retrospective study, we evaluated 79 biopsies (lip, n=24, and sublingual, n=55) taken at the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery of the University Hospital St-Luc, Brussels, by multiple junior trainees and senior surgeons (n=17). Data were collected from record study and from telephonic patient questionnaires. The three major indications were: sicca syndrome (24%), suspicion of Sjögren's syndrome (32%) or exclusion of other systemic diseases (44%). The histology results of the lip and sublingual biopsies, respectively, were: normal tissue (29%, 24%), chronic inflammation (29%, 41%), compatible, but not characteristic for Sjögren (8%, 7%), Sjögren's syndrome (13%, 24%), salivary gland atrophy (13%, 0%) or non-contributive (8%, 0%). The procedures were both almost painless (time during which painkillers had to be taken: 0.33 vs. 0.69 days, NS) and work incapacity was not encountered in any group. After one lip biopsy we had to deal with a permanent anesthesia of the lower lip (6.6%), and after one sublingual biopsy a swelling of the floor of the mouth had to be incised under local anesthesia (2.7%). Thus, sublingual biopsy is an easy procedure with low morbidity and excellent reliability in comparison to lip biopsy. No salivary gland atrophy and no non-contributive biopsies were encountered; no important bleeding or nerve lesion was recorded after sublingual biopsies.

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