The salivary glands are glands located around the mouth, nose and ears. These are primarily concerned with the production of the clear liquid released into the mouth that lubricates the mouth and starts the breakdown of chewed food. The saliva is made up essentially of water, enzymes, protein and mucin. A salivary gland scan is a medical test that requires the use of a camera specially designed for the purpose and a radioactive chemical that acts as a tracer which combines to get the required images of the salivary glands. The procedure helps the doctor better analyze the cause of conditions such as xerostomia (or dry mouth) and swelling of the salivary glands. A salivary gland scan is also commonly used in order to see if a growth in the parotid gland is either a benign Warthin’s tumor or a cancer. The risks involved with a salivary gland scan are very minimal and, at the most, the patient is prone to a slight chance of damaging the cells or tissues as a result of the radiation, however, the benefits of the test greatly outweigh the chances of complications. In rare cases, some patient may experience an allergic reaction to the tracer while others may develop a swelling, soreness or tenderness around the site of the IV, but this can easily be relieved with the help of a warm compress being applied over the area.
The medical staff will initially ask you to remove any jewelry around the area to be scanned and you will be seated with a camera placed at your neck. The tracer will then be introduced into your body with the help of an intravenous injection. This tracer will then release a certain amount of radiation that is picked up by the camera and pictures are taken every few minutes. It is essential that the patient remains very still for the duration of the scan in order to avoid any blurring of the images. The scan will be temporarily paused and the patient will then be asked to suck on a lemon as this helps release more saliva and then the scan resumed and more pictures taken. Overall, the duration of the scan should take about an hour.
When preparing for a salivary gland scan, it is essential that you make your doctor aware of conditions such as pregnancy or if you are breastfeeding as the tracer may inadvertently be passed on to your baby. As a result, it is essential that you use formula for about two days after the scan as this allows enough time for the tracer to be removed from your body.