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Lip biopsy for minor salivary gland (biopsy for Sjogren's syndrome)

last modified on: Tue, 03/10/2020 - 14:49


see also:Lip Biopsy for Sjogren's Syndrome (Minor Salivary Gland Biopsy) Using Chalazion Clamp Sjogren's SyndromeLip Biopsy of Minor Salivary Gland Histopathology for Sjogren's Syndrome (sjogren / sjogrens)

 and: Sjogren Syndrome Pathology


Lip biopsy of the minor salivary glands of the lip can be used in diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome.  Need to provide the pathologist with 3 – 5 minor salivary glands for examination. 

Consent: Lip biopsy under local anesthesia

  potential complications: bleeding, infection, reaction to the anesthetic, damage to adjacent structures.

Potential for development of mucocoele from interruption of adjacent minor salivary gland drainage, numbness in site of biopsy, inadequate tissue for diagnosis


  • Local anesthesia (see below), needles and syringes
  • Minor tray with: 15 blade, pick ups/tissue forceps, Steven’s scissors, Needle driver, Skin hooks, 4-0 Chromic or 4-0 vicrly for closure, Gauze, Cautery (Silver nitrate, Bipolar), Suction with Fraiser tip, Specimen container to send to path, Head light/Surgical light

Room positioning:

  • In oto minor room
  • Upright in dental chair
  • Mayo stand for supplies

Anesthesia: Local

  • Spray benzocaine spray or apply viscous lidocaine on a cotton ball to the lower lip mucosa
  • Inject the lower lip mucosa with 1% or 2% lidocaine with 1:100,000 epiphrine at desired spot of biopsy using a 27 gauge needle (0.5 cc – 1 cc should suffice)


After local anesthetic has set up make a horizontal or vertical incision to the lip’s long axis (surgeon preference) ~ 1 – 1.5 cm on the lower lip mucosa just lateral to midline while having the lip under stretch (assistant may be necessary).  Superficial to the muscle, identify minor salivary glands by the lobular nature.  Remove several readily available glands and place in specimen cup to send to pathology (on formalin).  Achieve hemostasis by holding pressure with gauze, silver nitrate cautery and/or electrocautery.  Close incision with interrupted simple stitch with 4-0 Chromic (1 or 2 stitches should suffice) or horizontal mattress to reapproximate the mucosal edges.  Regular oral care. 

Post op:

No antibiotics or pain medication necessary.


Lower lip numbness

 Mucocoele (obstructed drainage to minor salivary gland in lip adjacent scar)


Non-diagnostic biopsy (variable sensitivity for Sjogren’s syndrome)

    Note: questions persist about reliability and usefulness of lip biopsy (ref Bamba). Others suggest forgoing lip biopsy in that it adds little useful clinical information for those in whom the diagnosis is unlikely or where the diagnosis is clinically obvious (ref Lee 1999).

    see more detailed discussion of pros/cons to lip biopsy at: Sjogren's Syndrome

Bamba R, Sweiss NJ, Langerman AJ, Taxy JB and Blair EA: The Minor Salivary Gland Biopsy as a Diagnostic Tool for Sjorgren Syndrome.  Laryngoscope, 119:1922-1926, 2009

Lee M, Rutka JA, Slomovic AR, McComb J, Bailey DJ, and Bookamn AA: Establishing Guidelines for the role of minor salivary gland biopsy in clincial practice for Sjogren's syndrome. J Rheumatol  1998 Feb:25(2):247-53

Wijaya C, Ramli RR, Khoo SG.Dry surgical field minor salivary gland harvest using a chalazion clamp for sicca syndrome. J Laryngol Otol. 2019 May;133(5):419-423. doi: 10.1017/S002221511900077X. Epub 2019 Apr 22.