Introduction to Laryngectomy
The surgical removal of larynx, or the voice box in cases the larynx is affected with cancer or other malignancy is called Laryngectomy. This being a major surgery, affecting a person’s speaking ability; there are rehabilitation programs to be undergone to help the patients recover from the changes post the surgery of Laryngectomy.
Procedure of Laryngectomy
There can be partial Laryngectomy, total Laryngectomy or neck dissection depending on the extent of malignancy. In case of Partial Laryngectomy, a small portion of voice box is removed without the need of any cut in the neck and speech is retained. Total Laryngectomy involves full removal of the voice box after which the Trachea which was cut is stitched back to the skin. This is called a stoma (hole) which becomes a permanent breathing hole. Neck Dissection in laryngectomy is when the doctor removes the lymph nodes from the neck to prevent the spread of cancer.
Risk : Laryngectomy is often successful in curing early-stage cancers. However, it requires major lifestyle changes and there is a risk of severe psychological stress from unsuccessful adaptations. Laryngectomees must learn new ways of speaking, they must be constantly concerned about the care of their stoma. Serious problems can occur if water or other foreign material enters the lungs through an unprotected stoma. Also, women who undergo partial laryngectomy or who learn some types of artificial speech will have a deep voice similar to that of a man. For some women this presents psychological challenges. As with any major operation, there is a risk of infection. Infection is of particular concern to laryngectomees who have chosen to have a voice prosthesis implanted, and is one of the major reasons for having to remove the device.
If you are planning to have laryngectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Excessive swelling or bleeding
- Injury to the trachea (windpipe) or esophagus
- Blood clots
- Anesthesia-related problems
- Saliva leaking out to the skin (saliva fistula)
- Inability to speak or aphonia