As well as infection, lots of other conditions make lymph nodes swell up. Sometimes tests may show why a lymph node is swollen but sometimes they may not.
A detailed ear, nose and throat examination by a specialist may reveal the cause of the lymph node swelling in the neck.
The aim of the operation is to completely remove one of the lymph nodes.
You will have a general anaesthetic and be completely asleep while this is done. Sometimes the operation can be done with just a local anaesthetic injection to numb the skin. This would depend on the size and exact position of the enlarged node.
The lymph node will be examined in the laboratory to find out why it is swollen and to make sure no further treatment is needed.
Are there any alternatives?
A needle test (biopsy) may give the cause for the lymph node swelling. Sometimes the results are not reliable. The only way to get rid of the swelling is to remove it with an operation.
What if you do nothing?
If you do nothing the lymph nodes in the neck may stay the same or increase in size. If they get very big they may cause pain.
If you do nothing, and the reason for the enlarged lymph node is not known, you could be missing out on important treatment.
Who should have it done?
A person with enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, where the cause is unknown and other tests have not helped, should have the swelling removed.
Who should not have it done?
People who have other medical conditions that would make it unsafe for them to have a general anaesthetic should not have one. Sometimes the operation can be done with just a local anaesthetic injection to numb the skin. This would depend on the size and exact position of the enlarged node.
Author: Mr Robert Ruckley MB. ChB. F.R.C.S. Consultant ENT surgeon
© Dumas Ltd 2006