Prevention of Frey syndrome during parotidectomy

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1999 Aug;125(8):833-9. doi: 10.1001/archotol.125.8.833.


Objective: To evaluate the incidence of Frey syndrome (auriculotemporal nerve syndrome) after parotidectomy with and without placement of a subcutaneous implant and to examine the relationship between different implants and postoperative wound complications (hematoma, seroma, salivary fistula).

Design: A prospective nonrandomized controlled trial.

Setting: A primary care and referral university hospital center.

Patients: All patients scheduled for parotidectomy from April 1994 through August 1998 were eligible. Seventy patients were enrolled (2 refused). All 70 patients were evaluated for wound complications. Sixty patients with a follow-up of more than 1 year were evaluated for Frey syndrome.

Intervention: The choice of implant was left to the individual surgeon: 24 patients had no implant; 7, lyophilized dura implant; 7, polyglactin 910-polydioxanone (Ethisorb) implant; and 32, expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (e-PTFE) implant.

Outcome measures: The incidence of Frey syndrome was evaluated (1) subjectively by history (clinical Frey syndrome) and (2) objectively by using 2 newly developed tests. Both hemifaces were tested, with the normal side being used as a control.

Results: Clinical Frey syndrome was present in 12 patients: 11 without implants (11/24 [53%]) and 1 with an implant (1/46 [2%]) (P<.001). Objective tests were positive in 24 patients: 16 (76%) of 21 without implants and 8 (20%) of 39 with implants (P<.001). In the implanted patients, the objective tests were positive in 71% (5/7) of those with lyophilized dura, 14% (1/7) of those with Ethisorb, and 8% (2/29) of those with e-PTFE implants (P<.001). Wound complications included hematoma in 5 patients (7%), seroma in 4 patients (6%), and salivary fistula in 15 (21%). Salivary fistula occurred more frequently with Ethisorb (57%) and e-PTFE (25%) implants (P = .04).

Conclusions: In patients without an implant, the incidence of Frey syndrome is 50% for subjective and 80% for objective evaluation. In patients with an implant, these incidences are 3% and 10%, respectively. Some implants are associated with a higher incidence of salivary fistula.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bone and Bones
  • Child
  • Desiccation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parotid Gland / surgery*
  • Polydioxanone / therapeutic use
  • Polyglactin 910 / therapeutic use
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene / therapeutic use
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prostheses and Implants
  • Surgical Mesh
  • Sweating, Gustatory / prevention & control*
  • Sweating, Gustatory / surgery


  • Polydioxanone
  • Polyglactin 910
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene