Laryngectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a part or the complete larynx, the organ in your throat that is responsible for your voice. The larynx allows you to produce sound and also lets the air to travel from your lungs to the mouth. Thus, having a laryngectomy will affect your sound, breathing and swallowing and you may need to learn different ways to perform these necessary tasks.
Types of Laryngectomy
- Partial Laryngectomy: A surgical procedure to remove parts of the larynx.
- Total Laryngectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the entire larynx.
A person who is diagnosed with a cancer in the larynx or sustain any severe injury on the neck such as a gunshot wound would require laryngectomy. Undergoing radiation treatment that causes radiation necrosis, difficulty in swallowing, breathing and eating due to different conditions also require this surgery.
During the procedure
You will be placed under local or general anesthesia to help you get relaxed for the operation. The surgeon will make an incision in your neck to access and remove the voice box. Your lymph nodes and part of your pharynx could also be removed depending on the severity of the condition. If you are diagnosed with cancer in the larynx, cancerous cells are removed along with pharynx that connects your nose to the lungs and larynx.
Once the larynx is removed, the surgeon will create a hole of nickel size in front of the trachea, which links to your lungs directly, providing you easy breathing. In some cases, people are suffer from tracheoesophageal puncture (TEP), which is a tiny hole between the esophagus and trachea. Once you are healed, a prosthetic voice box is placed to help you speak.
The throat muscles and the neck are closed with stitches and you will be then moved to the recovery room with a drainage tube positioned at your neck. The whole operation lasts between 5-9 hours.
Potential complications after laryngectomy surgery are:
- Breathing issues
- Heart related issues
- Blood clots
- Difficulty in speaking
- Loss of voice
- Stomal stenosis
- Leaking around TEP
- Esophagus or trachea damage
Undergoing laryngectomy isn’t certain that you will experience these side effects.
Post operative care
Once the treatment is over, you will need to stay in the hospital for a few days where your vital signs will be monitored closely. You won’t be able to speak and an oxygen mask will be placed on your stoma.
Rest a lot and keep your head straight and move your legs regularly to maintain blood flow.
You may experience increased pain, for which, you will be given pain medications.
You won’t be able to eat for 2-3 days. It is recommended to wait for 5-7 days before you begin swallowing food.
Once your drain is removed, you will be taught how to take care of your stoma and neck, how to eat and take a shower.
Speech rehabilitation will help you a new way to speak, if your whole voice box is removed.
Follow regular checkups with your doctor to help you recover quickly and avoid any complications.