Tuberculosis of the parotid gland may be clinically indistinguishable from a neoplasm. This poses a problem with regard to management, because the treatment of tuberculosis is medical, whilst that of the majority of tumours is surgical. If radical surgery with resection of a branch or branches of the facial nerve is embarked upon in a patient with tuberculosis, without prior histological diagnosis, unnecessary permanent disability will result.
Two cases of tuberculosis of the parotid gland are reported, demonstrating the clinical similarity of tuberculosis to a parotid neoplasm and the absolute need for histological diagnosis before embarking on surgery that will require resection of the branches of the facial nerve.
The conclusion is that although tuberculosis of the parotid gland is rare, it still exists and must be thought of as one of the differential diagnoses of a parotid tumour. This must be kept in mind, especially when the decision to sacrifice branches of the facial nerve is indicated, in order to get a tumour-free margin on an excisional biopsy. If the suspicion of tuberculosis is high, a therapeutic trial of antituberculous chemotherapy, for one week, can be diagnostic.