Preservation of greater auricular nerve during parotidectomy: sensation, quality of life, and morbidity issues. A systematic review

Head Neck. 2014 Apr;36(4):603-8. doi: 10.1002/hed.23292. Epub 2013 Jun 14.


Background: Our objectives were to assess the evidence of preservation of the greater auricular nerve in parotidectomy with regard to morbidity and quality of life.

Methods: This was a systematic review. Inclusion criteria were: English literature, prospective and retrospective studies. Exclusion criteria were: single case reports, "teaching" reviews. Outcome measures were: tactile sensation, pain, thermal sensitivity, and quality of life.

Results: Although quality of life does not seem to be adversely affected when the greater auricular nerve is sacrificed, preservation of the posterior branch was recommended in 8 studies. When preserving the nerve, the incremental operative time increase is no more than 10 to 5 minutes after a rapid learning curve.

Conclusions: There is level Ib evidence that preservation of the greater auricular nerve minimizes the postoperative sensory disturbance and should be considered whenever tumor clearance is not compromised. There is no evidence that overall quality of life is affected when the greater auricular nerve is sacrificed.

Keywords: greater auricular nerve; morbidity; nerve preservation; nerve sacrifice; paresthesia; parotidectomy; quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Plexus
  • Ear, External / innervation*
  • Humans
  • Parotid Gland / innervation*
  • Parotid Gland / surgery*
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sensation Disorders / prevention & control
  • Touch