Regaining Speech and Swallowing after Removal of the LarynxApr 21, 2023
Laryngectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the larynx or voice box. This procedure is usually performed to treat cancer of the larynx. As a result of the surgery, patients lose their ability to speak and swallow normally. However, with the help of speech therapy and rehabilitation, patients can regain their speech and swallowing abilities.
After laryngectomy, patients lose their ability to speak because the vocal cords are no longer present. However, there are several options available to help patients regain their ability to communicate.
One of the most common methods used to help patients regain their ability to speak is tracheoesophageal puncture (TEP). This procedure involves creating a small hole between the trachea and esophagus. A prosthesis is then inserted into the hole, which allows air to pass from the lungs into the esophagus. This air can then be used to produce speech.
Another option for patients who have had a laryngectomy is an electrolarynx. This device is a handheld device that produces sound by vibrating against the neck. The user places the device against their neck and speaks normally, and the device produces sound that can be understood by others.
Esophageal speech is another option for patients who have had a laryngectomy. This method involves using air from the mouth to create sound in the esophagus. The sound is then articulated to produce speech. This method requires extensive training and practice and may not be suitable for all patients.
Swallowing after laryngectomy can also be problematic. The muscles and nerves that control swallowing are often affected by the surgery, making it difficult for patients to swallow normally. However, there are several methods available to help patients regain their ability to swallow.
Initially, patients may need to modify their diet to include soft, pureed foods that are easier to swallow. As they progress, they can gradually reintroduce more solid foods.
Exercises that strengthen the muscles used in swallowing can also be helpful. For example, patients may be instructed to practice swallowing exercises using water or other liquids.
Speech therapists can also help patients regain their ability to swallow. They may use techniques such as biofeedback or electrical stimulation to help patients improve their swallowing function.
Laryngectomy can be a difficult and life-changing procedure. However, with the help of speech therapy and rehabilitation, patients can regain their ability to communicate and swallow. If you or someone you know has had a laryngectomy, it is important to seek out the help of a speech therapist or rehabilitation specialist to help you regain your speech and swallowing abilities.
Nancy Wariari, MHA, MS CCC-SLP
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