JOURNAL ARTICLE

Subtotal glossectomy preserving half the tongue base prevents taste disorder in patients with tongue cancer

S Tomita, Y Terao, T Hatano, R Nishimura
International Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery 2014, 43 (9): 1042-6
24735717
Most patients diagnosed with tongue carcinoma undergo surgical resection and reconstructive surgery to preserve tongue mobility and swallowing functions. Twenty-four patients who underwent a total or subtotal glossectomy and surgical reconstruction were evaluated for residual taste sensation. The graded filter paper test for all four tastes (sweet, salt, sour, and bitter) was performed on the posterior wall of the oropharynx and on tongue remnants if they were visible from the mouth. Eleven of the 24 patients were aware of their taste disorder after surgery. Four patients with more than 1/2 residual tongue base had no taste complaints, whereas seven of 14 patients with less than 1/3 residual tongue base reported taste abnormalities. Patients who could only tolerate a poor diet or tube feeding tended to have taste complaints (P=0.017). The taste test showed that the taste threshold of the residual tongue was significantly lower compared to controls. The taste threshold was significantly correlated with the remaining volume of tongue base. Patients with >1/2 the tongue base remaining had good taste sensation, whereas those with <1/3 residual tissue had impaired taste. This study suggests that glossectomy strategies aimed at preserving at least half the tongue base may substantially reduce dysgeusia in the patients.

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