Laryngectomy – a thing of the past?

A recent post on the website of the Mayo Clinic (USA) talks about the need for patients to have a laryngectomy in future years.


Being a bit pedantic, everything discussed still involves the removal of the voicebox but what may be avoided is the need for a neck stoma. Like many articles I read it portrays having a laryngectomy as a bleak outcome.

For some a laryngectomy, after a diagnosis of late-stage cancer, is a procedure that brings precious months or years survival. For others it enables them to return to a full life in most respects. There may be some problems with speech and swallowing but this is true for many head and neck cancer patients.

Two alternatives are presented but both have limitations. Larynx transplants are unlikely to be a viable solution , not least from the problem of finding sufficient donors and the handicap of needing immuno-supressive drugs for life.  Regenerative medicine, using stem cells has the advantages of needing no donor or drugs to combat rejection. However my understanding is that these techniques will need many more years before providing a practical solution.

One approach that is not mentioned is to develop an artificial robotic larynx, but like regenerative medicine many years more will be needed to develop a viable device.