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Selecting a Surgeon

Patients often ask how they will be able to determine if their surgeon has enough experience to handle their surgery. Ideally, patients should attempt to find a surgeon who performs at least 20 parotid surgeries per year to ensure that the surgeon is maintaining the skill level required to successfully perform this surgery.

The diagnostic tests performed before surgery will provide the surgeon with a good surgical road map; however, the surgeon will not know the full extent of the tumor and its involvement with the facial nerve until they perform the surgery.

The surgeon may have to change or adjust the surgical plan once they get in the operating room, and this is where the experience of the surgeon really matters and will significantly increase the chances of the patient having a successful outcome.

It is absolutely critical that the patient selects a surgeon who is capable of performing a total parotidectomy, neck dissection, and extended operation, if required.

The surgeon should also be very experienced in handling both benign and malignant parotid tumors and should not just rely on the results of the fine needle aspiration. The surgeon should also have experience handling facial nerve deficits at the time of the initial operation.

How Can I Assess a Surgeon's Experience Level?

At Parotid Patient Project, we believe that a key way to determine if your surgeon has enough experience is by interviewing your surgeon.

It is very important that patients ask questions and are involved in their own medical care. The answers that you are provided should help you determine if the surgeon has the required level of experience.

Do not be afraid to ask questions. We recommend that you obtain a second opinion if something does not sound or feel right during that consultation. If you do not know what questions to ask, please refer to our list of questions.

Build a Positive Working Relationship

It is important for the surgeon and patient to work together as a team during this process. The goal is to build a working relationship based on mutual trust and respect, so you can decide on the best course of action together.

A good surgeon will listen to the concerns of the patient and answer the patient’s questions, so the patient will feel informed and empowered to make the best decisions for their medical care.

As a patient, you can help the surgeon by asking questions, bringing someone to the appointment who can write down or help you remember the answers, and by relying on the surgeon’s experience and expertise to help you make decisions about your care.

A patient should trust their surgeon and should feel confident that their surgeon will make the best decisions for them during surgery. It is equally important for the surgeon to know that the patient trusts them and believes that they will do their best to provide the patient with a positive outcome.

Another great way to find a surgeon is by asking fellow parotid patients for a referral and by learning from those patients how they selected their surgeon.

Join our patient forum for more tips on selecting a surgeon.


1. Olsen, KD (2017). How Many Have You Done, Doctor? When is Enough Enough? In KD Olsen, Salivary Gland Disease and Treatment (pp. 3-4). Rochester, MN: Mayo Clinic Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery.

2. Moore, EJ and Olsen, KD (2007). Total Parotidectomy. In KD Olsen, Salivary Gland Disease and Treatment (pp. 214-233). Rochester, MN: Mayo Clinic Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery.

3. Olsen, KD (2004). Superficial Parotidectomy. In KD Olsen, Salivary Gland Disease and Treatment (pp. 234-246). Rochester, MN: Mayo Clinic Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery.

4. The content in this section was drafted in consultation with Eric J. Moore, M.D., and Kerry D. Olsen, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.