Macroglossia in neurosurgery: A review
Macroglossia, an abnormal swelling of the tongue, is a rare post-operative complication often associated with serious airway obstruction and prolonged intubations. Currently, there is a paucity of information on the true incidence, aetiology, and complications associated with macroglossia.

This review, published in the Journal of Neuroanaesthesiology and Critical Care, was carried out so as to summarise the characteristics of reported cases of macroglossia and to present potential treatments and preventive strategies. A literature search was conducted in PubMed to identify human case reports of macroglossia after neurosurgical procedures including spine, published in English from 1974 to December 2015. A total of 26 reports with 36 cases of macroglossia were identified.

Macroglossia was most commonly reported after sub-occipital and/or posterior fossa craniotomies and spine surgeries in prone or park-bench positions. It is more common after procedures lasting >8 h. The aetiology of macroglossia is multi-factorial and possible mechanisms included local mechanical tongue compression interfering with venous and/or lymphatic drainage, regional venous thrombosis and/or local trauma.

Complications included airway obstruction, re-intubation, difficult re-intubation, prolonged intubation and Intensive Care Unit stay and tongue necrosis. Prevention, awareness of the possibility, and early recognition are the best forms of treatment.

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