Laryngectomy: Before Your Surgery

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What is laryngectomy?

Laryngectomy is the removal of all or part of the voice box (larynx). The voice box is in the neck and contains the vocal cords. It also helps you swallow and breathe. It is taken out to treat cancer of the larynx.

You will be asleep during the surgery. The doctor will take out all or part of the voice box through a cut in the front of your neck. This cut is called an incision. How much of the voice box the doctor takes out depends on how large the cancer is and how far it has spread. You will have stitches or staples in the incision.

Your ability to talk after surgery depends on how much of the voice box is removed. If all of it is removed, you will not be able to talk. In this case, the doctor will also make a hole in your neck to help you breathe. This is called a tracheotomy. The hole is called a stoma.

You will probably have a tube in your neck to drain fluid from the incision for 1 to 4 days after surgery. The stitches or staples will be taken out 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. The scar will fade over time. For a week or more after surgery you will need to get food through a tube. The tube goes into your nose and down your throat to your stomach. Your throat will heal in 2 to 3 weeks.

You can go home 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. You will probably be able to go back to work 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. It may take 3 to 4 months to feel normal again. Speech therapy will help you learn new ways to communicate if you can't talk normally after surgery. Most people can do their normal activities after a laryngectomy.

Losing your ability to talk can be very upsetting and hard to accept. It can affect your self-image and lead to depression. If you need help after surgery, you may want to see a counsellor.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines, including natural health products, such as vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • How long the surgery takes depends on how much of the larynx the doctor takes out.
  • You will not be able to eat normally until your throat has healed. You will get food through a tube that goes into your nose and down into your stomach.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: July 29, 2016