This is surgery to remove the larynx, more commonly known as the voice box. In some cases, a partial laryngectomy may be possible.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the surgery.
Your doctor may do the following:
Leading up to your surgery:
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep during 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.
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
This surgery is done in a hospital. The usual length of stay is 7-14 days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.
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 at least a month. You may notice a reduction in your sense of taste and smell. You will continue to use the stoma for breathing.
Most people 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.
You may be referred to a support group to help you to cope with the surgery.
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
BC Cancer Agency
Canadian Cancer Society
Hanasono MM, Lin D, Wax MK, Rosenthal EL. Closure of laryngectomy defects in the age of chemoradiation therapy. Head Neck. 2012;34(4):580-588.
Laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003108-pdf.pdf. Accessed May 23, 2014.
Laryngectomy. UC Davis Health System website. Available at: http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/otolaryngology/Health%20Information/LARYNGECTOMY.pdf. Accessed May 23, 2014.
Last reviewed June 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.