A mucocoele is a collection of mucous beneath the lining of the mouth due to either the rupture or obstruction of a salivary gland duct. It can occur anywhere in the oral cavity but is most commonly found on the lower lip. When they occur in the floor of the mouth, they are called ranulas. They don’t usually cause pain but can form a lump in the mouth or get traumatised if they caught between the teeth.
Small mucocoeles may resolve spontaneously and no treatment is required. They may rupture spontaneously or when bitten, but often recur. Others persist and become chronic. If surgery is required, the aim of the operation is complete removal of the cyst and the adjacent salivary gland. The operation is performed under general anaesthesia. Your child will usually not have to stay overnight in hospital.
Your child cannot eat for 6 hours before the procedure. In breast fed babies this time may be reduced by the anaesthetist. Your child can drink water for up to 2 hours before the operation. The Day Surgery Unit will instruct you the day before surgery to confirm fasting times. It is useful to bring your child’s favourite toy along on the day.
The anaesthetist will meet you and your child prior to the procedure. They will discuss the anaesthetic with you and take you through to the operating theatre. Your child will be anaesthetised using a face mask and then you will be taken to a waiting area. Once your child is asleep a drip is inserted often in the hand or arm, but occasionally it may need to be sited in the leg.
The operation is done through an incision in the mouth. The mucocoele is removed with the adjacent salivary gland. If the mucocoele is in the floor of the mouth (ranula), the submandibular gland should be removed (please refer to the information on submandibular gland excision). Local anaesthetic is injected to numb the area. The wound is closed with absorbable sutures. The whole operation takes around 30 minutes.
On completion of the operation your child will be taken to the recovery area. Children often initially appear distressed and a little confused upon waking up but will quickly settle down once you are with them and if offered a drink or something to eat. Full recovery usually takes about 2-3 hours after which you can go home.
Children’s paracetamol should be given for pain relief for 24 hours. After that use paracetamol only if needed. Some children need additional medication such as ibuprofen or celecoxib. Opiate (morphine-type) medications are not usually required. Paracetamol and ibuprofen can be given at the same time and work well together. Follow the dosages recommended on the packaging or by the anaesthetist. Never give more than has been prescribed.
It is quite normal for the lip to become quite swollen and there may be some bruising. This usually resolves in week or so.
In general, your child may eat a normal diet after surgery. Vomiting is common on the day of surgery. It is temporary, and usually due to the anaesthetic and pain-relief medications that are used. If vomiting occurs, start with clear liquids and add solids slowly for the first day.
I will review your child 4-6 weeks after the surgery to ensure healing of the wound. For patients from rural areas this may be deferred to your local General Practitioner or Paediatrician. Please ring soon after the operation to arrange a convenient time.
This is a common operation with a low complication rate. The vast majority of children who have this operation recover well and have no serious complications of surgery. However, complications can occur. Some of the recognised ones include:
There is a 5% chance of recurrence. This occurs more commonly if the cyst ruptured preoperatively, if the cyst was not completely excised or if the adjacent salivary gland was not removed.
Infection is very uncommon in the oral cavity. If it does occur, the wound will be tender to touch and may discharge pus or blood. A course of antibiotics may be required, and you should contact me or present to your General Practitioner or Local Hospital as soon as possible.
Please refer to the following resource for more information:
This page is intended to provide you with information and does not contain all known facts about mucocoeles in children. Treatment may have uncommon risks not discussed here. Please do not hesitate to ask any questions you may have.