This is surgery to remove the larynx (voice box). This is usually done to treat cancer. Depending on the extent of the cancer, a partial laryngectomy may be possible.
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.
If you are planning to have laryngectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the surgery.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
Leading up to your surgery:
General anesthesia will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery. It is given through an IV in your hand or arm.
Description of the Procedure
The doctor will make a cut in the skin on your neck. He will divide the muscles that are attached to the larynx. 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.
A stoma (hole) 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, the doctor will insert a tracheostomy tube. This tube, which fits into the stoma, will act as an airway, helping you to breathe. The doctor will insert drainage tubes 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?
How Much Will It Hurt?
You will have pain while recovering, but your doctor will give you pain medicine.
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.
At the Hospital
While you are recovering at the hospital, you will:
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
The throat tissue will heal in about 2-3 weeks. Complete recovery will take about a month. You may notice a reduction in your sense of taste and smell. You will continue to use the stoma for breathing.
Most patients are able to return to their jobs and past activities, except for swimming. Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
Joining a support group may help you to cope with the surgery.
Call Your Doctor
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
BC Cancer Agency
Canadian Cancer Society
All about laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/ . Accessed September 11, 2009.
Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice. 16th ed. WB Saunders Co; 2001.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Marcin Chwistek, MD