Laryngectomy is a surgical procedure in which a part of the larynx (voice box) or the complete larynx is removed. A laryngectomy is performed to treat various conditions such as cancer of the larynx (laryngeal cancer), and chondronecrosis of the larynx (damage to the larynx because of radiation), and fracture or damage to the larynx.
Depending on the condition, a laryngectomy can be total or partial. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia. A small incision is made near Adam’s apple on the neck. Then the larynx is partially or entirely removed. A permanent hole (stoma) is created on the neck, and an opening in the trachea or windpipe is created. Then the stoma will be attached to the trachea. Then breathing will take place through this stoma. The surgery incision is sealed by stitches or clips. If required, the surgeon will do a tracheoesophageal puncture in which a voice prosthesis will be attached.
Laryngectomy surgery requires some pre-operative procedures that need to be conducted.
The patient may have to stay in the hospital for 10-14 days post-surgery for monitoring. An oxygen mask may be required temporarily to enable the patient to breathe properly post the surgery. A catheter will be inserted to collect the urine. Pain medication will be given as necessary. Eating will not be possible initially until complete healing. A feeding tube will be administered until swallowing becomes possible painlessly. This will take around 8-10 days after the surgery. Depending on the doctor’s recommendation, the patient should follow up to ensure that there are no complications and the recovery is normal.
Risks and side effects associated with laryngectomy are:
It is possible to resume most day-to-day activities after the surgery. Activities such as bathing, swimming, etc., must be avoided as water enters the stoma. Gradually, exercises can be started after the doctor’s recommendation. Exercises aid in recovery and healing. It is also advisable to consult a therapist to cope with the feelings after surgery. A speech therapist will advise on how to speak after the surgery. The area around the stoma must be kept clean to avoid infections. Keeping the airway moist will help in reducing conditions such as dry cough. A saline spray or a humidifier will be helpful for this purpose. If there is any mucous deposit or crusts around the stoma, it must be coughed out. Covering the stoma with a damp cloth also helps.