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Laryngectomy  
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Definition  

This is surgery to remove the larynx, also known as the voice box. This is usually done to treat cancer. Depending on the extent of the cancer, a partial laryngectomy may be possible.

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Reasons for Procedure  

Laryngectomy is done to treat cancer of the larynx. This surgery may also be done to treat damage of the larynx due to trauma.

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Possible Complications  

If you are planning to have laryngectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Infection
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Excessive swelling or bleeding
  • Injury to the trachea, also known as the windpipe, or esophagus
  • Blood clots
  • Anesthesia-related problems
  • Saliva leaking out to the skin
  • Inability to speak or aphonia
  • Cancer occurs again

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the surgery.

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What to Expect  

Prior to Procedure  

Your doctor may do the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Laryngoscopy—the use of a long, thin, lighted tube called a laryngoscope to examine the larynx
  • Radiation therapy—to treat cancer

Leading up to your surgery:

  • Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure, like:
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen
    • Blood thinners
    • Anti-platelet medications
  • Also talk to your doctor about ways to restore speech, such as:
    • Tracheoesophageal puncture
    • Hand-held speech aids
  • Eat a light meal the night before the surgery. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.

Anesthesia  

General anesthesia will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery. It is given through an IV.

Description of the Procedure  

A cut will be made in the skin on your neck. The muscles that are attached to the larynx will be divided. The larynx and surrounding tissue will then be removed. Sometimes, a partial laryngectomy will be done. In this case, the doctor will remove the tumor and only part of the larynx. If you have this type of surgery, you may retain some normal speech and more of your normal swallowing function.

An opening called a stoma will be created through the skin in the neck. Next, the trachea will be connected to the opening. This will enable you to breathe through the hole. In some cases, a tracheostomy tube will be inserted. This tube, which fits into the stoma, will act as an airway, helping you to breathe. Drainage tubes will be inserted to drain blood and fluid. Lastly, the muscles and skin will be brought together and closed with stitches or clips.

How Long Will It Take?  

5-9 hours

How Much Will It Hurt?  

You will have pain while recovering, but you will be given pain medication.

Average Hospital Stay  

This surgery is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is 7-14 days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.

Post-procedure Care  

At the Hospital  

While you are recovering at the hospital, you will:

  • Have an oxygen mask over the stoma.
  • Be given nutrition through an IV or a feeding tube. A speech pathologist or doctor will assess your ability to swallow. Depending on the results, you will progress to soft foods.
  • You may need to wear boots or special socks to help prevent blood clot formation in your legs
  • Be instructed to:
    • Use a call bell and message board to communicate.
    • Keep the head of your bed raised.
    • Move your legs while in bed to increase circulation.
  • Learn to care for your stoma and tracheostomy tube, which includes:
    • Using a mist hood over the stoma
    • Keeping water out of the stoma
    • Covering the stoma with a shower hood when showering
    • Suctioning secretions
  • Have the drains removed in about five days. The stitches will be removed in about one week.

At Home  

When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:

  • Be sure to follow your doctor's