Prevention of radiation-induced xerostomia by submandibular gland transfer




This study was carried out for the purpose of evaluating the efficacy of submandibular gland transfer to prevent radiation-induced xerostomia.


Thirty-eight patients with oropharyngeal carcinoma were recruited. Twenty-six submandibular glands were transferred into the submental space to elude radiotherapy in 24 patients (transfer group); the submandibular gland was not disturbed in the control group (n = 14). The salivary flow rate, xerostomia, and quality of life (QOL) were assessed preoperatively, postoperatively, and after radiotherapy. The swallowing function was then evaluated after radiotherapy.


All the transferred glands survived and functioned after radiotherapy. The submandibular salivary flow rate recovered by 6 months after radiotherapy in the transfer group, whereas the flow rate declined drastically after radiotherapy and remained at a low level in the longer term in the control group. Two years after radiotherapy, 92.3% of patients in the transfer group had no or minimal xerostomia. QOL in the transfer group was better than that in the control group from 3 months after radiotherapy. Histologically, the majority of the transferred glands had normal glandular acini and ducts. There was no significant difference in dysphagia between the groups.


The submandibular gland can be successfully transferred to the submental space, thus preserving salivary function and preventing radiation-induced xerostomia. The transfer of the submandibular gland can improve the QOL by alleviating xerostomia, although it did not relieve dysphagia in this study. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Head Neck, 2011