What are potential complications of mucocele and ranula?

Updated: Oct 19, 2020
  • Author: Catherine M Flaitz, DDS, MS; Chief Editor: Jeff Burgess, DDS, MSD  more...
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A low risk of bleeding and low-to-moderate peripheral nerve damage exists after excision of a mucocele. The potential for nerve damage is reduced during mucocele excision by initiation of proper incision direction. Further, mucocele reoccurrence is reduced if the gland and adjacent glandular tissue are removed in entirety.

No complications are associated with superficial mucoceles, unless the lesions are surgically excised.

Complications are more common with surgical intervention in oral and cervical ranulas than other treatments. Possible surgical complications include the following: injury to the Wharton duct, leading to stenosis, obstructive sialadenitis, and leakage of saliva; injury to the lingual nerve with temporary or permanent paresthesia; and injury to the marginal mandibular branch of the facial nerve with paresthesia. Postoperative hematoma, infection, or dehiscence of the wound may occur.

In addition, incomplete removal of the oral ranula increases the risk for developing a cervical ranula, while a cervical ranula may extend into the mediastinum. Approximately 45% of plunging ranulas occur after attempts to remove oral ranulas, which can result in a compromised airway. Cervical ranulas can extend into the mediastinum and provoke a sterile mediastinitis that may be life threatening.

The complications of a mucus retention cyst are the same as those for a mucus retention phenomenon and an oral ranula, depending on the location.

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