The larynx, or voice box, plays an extremely important role in our ability to breath, swallow and talk. People with laryngeal disorders, including cancer, laryngitis, vocal cord polyps and other disorders, may need larynx surgery. Depending on the disorder being treated, larynx surgery can range from phonosurgery to a partial or full laryngectomy.
Phonosurgery is a procedure that is performed to maintain or improve the patient's voice. Phonomicrosurgery and laryngeal framework surgery are the most common types of phonosurgery performed. These procedures usually correct vocal fold abnormalities to improve the vibration of the vocal cords of a patient who does not respond well to vocal therapy.
If diagnosed with cancer, there are five types of larynx surgery that can be performed to remove the cancer. The size and location of the tumor will determine the aggressiveness of the larynx surgery that the person should undergo. Radiotherapy is usually the first treatment recommended by physicians if the cancer is diagnosed in an early stage and has not affected the vocal cords.
Laser surgery can be used to eradicate a very small tumor. First, a photosensitizing drug is injected into the patient’s bloodstream so the cancer cells are sensitive to light. A small, fiber-optic tube with a laser on the end is then put down the patient’s throat to target the cancer cells. Laser surgery is done under general anesthesia and has a short recovery time.
An endoscopic resection of the tumor will be performed if the patient’s cancer is still in the early stages. A tube with a small camera, light and either surgical instruments or a laser will be passed through the person’s throat. The camera’s view will be displayed on a screen so the operating physician will be able to cut away any tissue that contains cancer cells.
A partial laryngectomy removes part of the voice box, usually one vocal cord. The surgeon will go in through the patient’s neck to remove the cancer and will insert a stoma into a hole that is made in the neck. The stoma is only necessary during the recovery period. Once the stoma is removed, the hole will heal and close.
A total laryngectomy is the most aggressive type of larynx surgery. The patient’s entire voice box will be removed and a permanent stoma will be inserted, because the part of your throat that once connected the mouth to the lungs has been removed. Voice rehabilitation with a speech therapist can help patients who have had a total laryngectomy learn other methods of creating sound for speech.