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Sialendoscopy for Salivary Stone Removal

Appointments & Referrals

 Call: 858-822-6197

 For Referring Physicians

 Charles Coffey, MD

 Moores Cancer Center

​UC San Diego Health is the only hospital system in San Diego County offering minimally invasive removal of salivary stones that cause swelling, pain or chronic infection.

The benefits of this endoscopic procedure, known as sialendoscopy, over traditional surgery include:

  • Preservation of the patient's salivary gland. 
  • Very low risk of damage to adjacent nerves
  • No hospitalization
  • No wound care, incision or scar

In addition, sialendoscopy allows the physician to directly visualize the stone, modify the procedure as needed, and apply medication directly to the affected area.

Charles Coffey, MD, a head and neck surgeon at UC San Diego Health, specializes in removing salivary stones and was trained by one of the nation's early champions of sialendoscopy. He currently performs 24 to 36 sialendoscopies per year and has a greater than 80 percent success rate in restoring quality of life to patients with salivary stones. Most of his patients return to normal daily life within two days and will not need a second intervention.

What Is a Salivary Stone?

Salivary stones are crystals made of calcium and other constituents of saliva. Microscopic salivary stones are common and harmless, passing without notice through the salivary gland ducts into the mouth.

Why Are Salivary Stones a Problem?

Sometimes, tiny stones grow to a size that blocks the duct. The gland will then swell, often causing pain and infection. Anything that triggers salivary production, such as eating food, can exacerbate the condition.

Living with a salivary stone is largely a quality of life issue as eating may become a source of pain and disfiguring swelling. Many individuals will receive multiple courses of antibiotics before seeking specialized medical expertise.

What Is Sialendoscopy? How are Salivary Stones Removed?

Sialendoscopy makes use of advances in miniaturization that enable cameras as small as 0.8 millimeters in diameter (approximately the thickness of a pencil lead) to be housed within long, thin endoscopes. During sialendoscopy, an endoscope is inserted into the affected duct in the mouth. Once the stone is located, the necessary removal equipment is threaded through a port in the scope to the stone. The stone is then grasped and extracted or mechanically broken into smaller pieces, which are then extracted. In some cases, a stent may be used to widen a narrow duct. 

Because the stone is accessed through a natural opening in the mouth, the salivary gland duct, there is no incision and little risk of damaging nearby nerves that control movement of the face or tongue.

Read about one patient's experience with salivary stone removal at UC San Diego Health.