The more I read the news about organ transplant the more I am amazed at what scientists are
trying to do. After face transplant, arm transplant, uterine transplant now we have voice box transplant. This has to be a very complicated surgery where nerves have to be connected together. A group of Doctors in UK is planning to perform the first surgery of this kind in that country but it will be the third in the world. Professor Martin Birchall, from University College London (UCL), will lead a team carrying out the procedure on a man or woman whose voice box has been damaged by cancer or accident according to the Telegraph report.
What is a Laryngectomy?
A laryngectomy is the surgical removal of the larynx (voice box). The patient who had a laryngectomy done will need to breathe through an opening in their neck called a stoma (tracheostomy). In order to be able to make some sound or to communicate 3 options are available. A prosthesis can be installed by a surgeon to simulate a larynx. The two other methods are the use of an electrolarynx where a device is applied against the throat and produces sounds similar to a robot. Lastly, the patient can learn to talk with his esophagus but this is a difficult technique to master.
What are the Causes for Laryngectomy?
Throat cancer is the leading cause of laryngectomy. This form of cancer has usually a high incidence in smokers but non-smoker can too have throat cancer. Trauma, such as car accident can also necessitate this life saving surgery. It is a life-saving surgery because patients in need of that surgery run the risk of having their larynx close on them and not able to breathe anymore. Around 3,000 laryngectomies are performed annually in the US.
Larynx Transplant Implications
Loss of a larynx removes many things that make us quintessentially human, through loss of speech, swallowing and altered appearance,” Prof Birchall said in the Telegraph. The goal of this uncommon organ transplant is not a life-saving one like for kidney or liver transplant; it is more about quality of life. The patient has to weigh the risks and benefits of having to be on immunosuppressant for the rest of his or her life. Some questions are left unanswered. What happens if the body rejects the new transplant? Does it need to be removed or is a tracheostomy needed again? Those are questions that a candidate to this surgery should ask his surgeon. I guess some people are ready for anything when it comes to being “normal” again. What’s next now?