WHAT IS A LARYNGECTOMY (a.k.a. LARY)?

Australians just love to shorten things!

A ‘Lary’ is a person who, as a result of cancer, has had their Larynx surgically removed. This called a Laryngectomy.

The Larynx is the portion of your throat that houses your vocal cords. The Larynx has two main purposes in life:

  1. allows to you make sound/talk
  2. acts as a two-way valve that connects your nose and mouth to your windpipe (into your lungs), and to your oesophagus (into your stomach). So, the Larynx protects your lungs by keeping the things you eat or drink in your esophagus and out of your lungs.

A Laryngectomy can then be split into two types; a Total Laryngectomy or a Partial Laryngectomy.

Each procedure has a range of benefits, risks, and complications. Your ENT will guide you on the appropriate option for your specific case.

Whichever procedure you ultimately have, regular check-ups with your Clinical team will always be required.

TOTAL LARYNGECTOMY

This surgical procedure involves the total removal of the Larynx; this includes the separation of the airway from the mouth and nose and the esophagus. There will no longer be a Larynx to direct traffic! Instead of a Y intersection, it becomes two single-lane roads.

Your windpipe (Trachea) will be redirected to come out of a hole in your neck, called a Stoma. Your stoma essentially becomes your new nose and mouth for breathing, hence Lary’s are often referred to as neck breathers. Your esophagus will remain attached to your throat.

Because NO AIR can come in or out of the mouth and nose they longer function as they used to. This means you cannot breathe, sniff, blow your nose, receive oxygen or be resuscitated by the nose or mouth. Your sense of smell is also affected, as no air is able to be drawn up the nose. However as the sense is still there, certain circumstances such as a wind or a confined space mean you will occasionally get a whiff.

Your ENT will guide you on the appropriate actions for your specific case.

More detailed information about a Total Laryngectomy can be found in the PDF guide from Head and Neck Cancer Australia >>

KEY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LARYNGECTOMY AND A TRACHEOSTOMY

Outwardly a Laryngectomy and a Tracheostomy look very similar, in that there is a stoma in the neck. As a result, a Lary is often mistakenly identified as a Trachy. However, internally things are very different indeed.

The graphic below demonstrates the airflow for a normal neck compared to that of a Tracheostomy and a Laryngectomy. Though someone with a Tracheostomy may have varying degrees of airflow, the Trachea (windpipe) is still functional and connected to the mouth and nose. With a Laryngectomy, the Trachea has been totally redirected to the stoma in the neck.

It is important for the medical profession, in particular, to identify the difference as any resuscitation or oxygen must be via the stoma. The Larykins have been actively working in this area to improve understanding at all levels of the medical profession. As a result the Victorian Ambulance Association are have produced an Emergency Resuscitation Program that we hope to implement Australia wide.

Key Differences Between a Laryngectomy and a Tracheostomy

PARTIAL LARYNGECTOMY

This surgical procedure involves only partial removal of the Larynx. How much will depend on the cancer spread and margins the surgeons needs to take.

More detailed information about a Partial Laryngectomy can be found in the PDF guide from Head and Neck Cancer Australia >>

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