What is a Laryngectomy?

How this essential and life-saving operation allows the patient to breathe

Laryngectomy means the removal of the larynx or voice box. A laryngectomee is a person who has had this essential and life-saving operation – a challenge which thousands of people have met successfully. After the operation the patient breathes through an opening (stoma) in the neck.

Picture provided by Inhealth Technologies

What happens after Laryngectomy?

Nowadays, in most cases, a laryngectomee can start learning to speak again within a few days of recovering from the operation. Here the knowledge, care and training of the Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) play a vital part in helping Laryngectomees gain a ‘new’ voice, using various methods that are deemed best for the individual, including a ‘voice-valve’, fitted between the oesophagus and the trachea.

In most cases, a Laryngectomee can be fit enough to leave hospital within 2 weeks of surgery, and then attend regular hospital outpatient clinics for check-ups, dietary monitoring, medication and help with developing a stronger voice. As time goes by, the clinic visits will normally be changed to longer periods.

Many Laryngectomees experience loss of smell and/or loss of taste, but one or the other can return over longer periods. Other than that, by establishing a healthy diet, and regularly practising developing a near-normal voice, there is no reason why a Laryngectomee cannot enjoy a good, near-normal quality of life.