Laryngectomy is surgery to remove the larynx (voice box) in your throat. All or part of the larynx may be removed in a laryngectomy.
Total laryngectomy is major surgery that is done in the hospital. Before surgery you will receive general anesthesia. This will make you asleep and unable to feel pain.
In a total laryngectomy, first your surgeon will make a surgical cut in your neck to open up the area. Important parts of this surgery are:
There are many less invasive surgeries to remove part of the larynx.
Part of your pharynx may be removed in a total laryngectomy. Your pharynx is the tube air moves through from your nose. It connects with your larynx.
The surgery takes 5 to 9 hours.
Usually laryngectomy is done to treat cancer of the larynx. It is also done to treat:
Risks for any surgery are:
Risks for this surgery are:
You will have many doctor visits and medical tests before you have surgery. Some of these are:
Always tell your doctor or nurse:
During the days before your surgery:
On the day of your surgery:
You will need to stay in the hospital for several days after surgery.
After the procedure, you will be groggy and will not be able to speak. An oxygen mask will be on your stoma. It's important to keep your head raised, rest a lot, and move your legs from time to time to improve blood flow. Keeping blood moving reduces your risk of getting a blood clot.
You can use warm compresses to reduce pain around your cut. Your nurse will give you pain medicine.
You will receive nutrition through an IV (a tube that goes into a vein) and tube feedings. Tube feedings are given through a tube that goes through your nose and into your esophagus (feeding tube).
You may be allowed to swallow food as soon as 2 to 3 days after surgery. But, it is more common to wait 5 to 7 days after your surgery to start eating through your mouth.
Your trachea drain will be removed in 2 to 3 days. You will be taught how to care for your tracheostomy tube and stoma. You will learn how to safely shower and swim. You must be careful not to let water enter through your stoma.
Speech rehabilitation with a speech therapist will help you relearn how to speak.
You will need to avoid heavy lifting or strenuous activity for about 6 weeks. You may slowly resume your normal, light activities.
Follow up with your doctor as often as your doctor says you need to.
Your wounds will take about 2 to 3 weeks to heal. You can expect full recovery in about a month. Many times, removal of the larynx will take out all the cancer or injured material. People learn how to change their lifestyle and live without their voice box.
Complete laryngectomy; Partial laryngectomy
Rassekh H, Haughey BH. Total Laryngectomy and laryngopharyngectomy. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 111.
Agrawal N, Goldberg D. Primary and Salvage Total Laryngectomy. Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America. August 2008;41(4).
Updated by: Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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