Tongue Reduction for Macroglossia

J Craniofac Surg. 2021 Jul-Aug;32(5):1856-1859. doi: 10.1097/SCS.0000000000007276.


Introduction: Macroglossia is a term used to describe a large tongue which protrudes outside of the mouth while in a resting position (Balaji, 2013). It is a cardinal sign in children with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and can also be found in children with Down syndrome and Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome. Macroglossia can lead to airway and feeding difficulties, as well as problems with speech, drooling, and cosmesis. We present a review of tongue reduction operations performed for macroglossia over a 10-year period in Northern Ireland.

Methods: We performed a retrospective review of the medical notes of those children identified to have undergone a tongue reduction procedure in the regional pediatric hospital. We reviewed the presenting symptoms and concerns, the operative technique used, postoperative outcomes, and follow up. Outcomes data included improvements in symptoms, complications, and the need for revision procedures.

Results: Six children underwent tongue reduction procedures over a 10-year period. Age range at time of surgery was between 4 months to 10 years 3 months. Five children had an underlying diagnosis of Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and 1 child had Down syndrome. One child underwent a second tongue reduction for mild tongue protrusion at the 5-year follow up. There were no complications in relation to tongue reduction surgery for any of the children and importantly, there were no airway complications in our series. All patients were found to have improved feeding, better tongue position in the oral cavity, reduced drooling, and better speech development following surgery.

Conclusion: Symptomatic macroglossia requiring a tongue reduction procedure is relatively rare and these procedures are, therefore, uncommonly performed. Despite the rarity of this procedure, when it is required, it can be life saving for some infants and children, and life altering for the remainder. Improvements in airway, feeding, speech, and psychosocial wellbeing are the desired outcomes with this procedure. Throughout our 10-year series we have found it to be a relatively safe procedure but potentially anesthetically challenging. We have demonstrated both good short and long-term outcomes for these children.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome* / surgery
  • Child
  • Glossectomy
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Macroglossia* / etiology
  • Macroglossia* / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tongue / surgery