The larynx is an essential part of the human body located in the neck. This is known as the voice box because it contains the vocal cords, which allow sounds production. Besides, occupying a determined location in the neck, it helps human beings swallow and breathe normally.
When a laryngectomy is practiced, whatever the reason might be, the area around the incision may become swollen, numb or bruised, generating different grades of pain in the patient. This symptomatology can continue for a few weeks, probably needing a prescription for pain and anti-inflammatory medication.
After the surgery, it is very common for the surgeons to place a drainage tube in the neck for approximately a week or less. This, besides the inflammatory symptoms, could generate some discomfort for swallowing.
To alleviate the swallowing problems is normal to have a nasogastric tube placed for 2 to 3 weeks after surgery, allowing the food to go through from the nose directly to the stomach. Is very important to follow the doctor´s guidelines to avoid any issue while using the feeding tube.
Regarding the ability to talk, this will depend on how much of the voice box was removed during the surgery. If it were removed entirely, the patient would have to learn new communication methods – like esophageal speech or using electrolarynx / electronic larynx. If it was only partially removed, the vocal communication capacity could return when the inflammatory symptoms have disappeared. In these cases, the ability to talk could be recovered by practicing vocal exercises and techniques. It is also possible to combine normal speech with a speech aid.
Losing the ability to talk can generate symptoms of anxiety and anger, being hard to accept it and leading to low self-esteem and depression. In these cases, seeking counseling could be the best thing to do.
Patients who are submitted to a complete larynx removal will have a hole in their front region of the neck to help them breathe normally. This is called a stoma. Is very important for the patients to be advised by a doctor or a nurse on how to correctly take care of it, due to its high risk of infection.
With the right counseling and following proper guidelines and recommendations, most people return to their normal routines approximately 2 months after returning home and can start practicing with their speech aid. This period could extend more if the person needs to receive other treatment sessions like chemotherapy or radiation therapy, but in general, patients receive positive results.