A laryngectomy is the partial or complete surgical removal of the larynx, usually as a treatment for cancer of the larynx. It may be complete (total) or partial. The type of surgery you have will depend upon the location and extent of the tumor within your larynx.
In a complete laryngectomy, the entire larynx is removed. If the cancer has spread to other surrounding structures in the neck, such as the lymph nodes, they are removed at the same time. Complete removal of the larynx is a major form of surgery and is not performed very often, but it is still undertaken in cases of malignancy or if a person has sustained a severe injury to their larynx.
During a laryngectomy, the surgeon removes the larynx through an incision in the neck. The procedure also requires the surgeon to perform a tracheotomy, because air can no longer flow into the lungs. He makes an artificial opening called a stoma in the front of the neck. The upper portion of the trachea is brought to the stoma and secured, making a permanent alternate way for air to get to the lungs. The connection between the throat and the esophagus is not normally affected, so after healing, the person whose larynx has been removed (called a laryngectomee) can eat normally. However, since the vocal cords are removed you will have to permanently breathe through your stoma and learn new ways to communicate.
If the tumor is small, a partial laryngectomy is performed, by which only a part of the larynx, usually one vocal chord, is removed. Partial laryngectomies are also often performed in conjunction with other cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
The tracheostomy tube is removed after a short period of time with a partial laryngectomy, whereas it is a permanent fixture in cases of total laryngectomy.
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