Removing Salivary Stones

CHARLESTON, S.C. Elizabeth Johnson spends a lot of time exploring ... one book at a time.

"My mom was an elementary school librarian, so I spent a lot of time in the library with her," Johnson told Ivanhoe.

She's also spent a lot of time in pain. For 10 years, Johnson had a stone larger than the size of a pencil eraser lodged inside her salivary gland.

"My jaw would just swell up periodically and I'd have a lot of pain," she said.

"Traditionally, people had to get open surgery through an incision on the face or on the neck to get the stone out," Dr. Gillespie, associate professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina, told Ivanhoe.

But Dr. Gillespie is using a less invasive technique.

"It allows us and opportunity to remove a large percentage of these stones through the natural opening of the gland," Dr. Gillespie explained.

Donna Aiello is having the procedure. Her hope...

"That it just goes away, that it's done, that I won't have any more problems with it, that I won't have to be on antibiotics."

Dr. Gillespie dilates her salivary gland and inserts a tiny scope into the opening. He then uses micro-instruments to pull out the stone.

"These are patients who in the past would have been facing open surgery in many cases to treat their gland, and we've found that in over 90 percent of cases, we can actually preserve their gland and reduce their symptoms," Dr. Gillespie said.

Johnson is happy with her results.

"I went home the next day and was able to eat that night," she said.

And she's starting the next chapter of her life.

Dr. Gillespie traveled to Germany to learn the procedure, which can also be used to treat salivary obstructions from scar tissue. About five medical centers across the country offer the treatment.

Dr. M. Boyd Gillespie
Medical University of South Carolina

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