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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
A laryngectomy is surgery to remove your larynx (voice box). This surgery is used to help treat cancer of the larynx, thyroid, or other throat cancers. After surgery, you will breathe through an opening in your neck called a stoma. You may have a total or partial laryngectomy depending on how much of your larynx needs to be removed.
Have someone call 911 if:
- You have shortness of breath or any trouble breathing.
Seek care immediately if:
- You see signs of infection around your surgery wound or stoma, such as redness, swelling, and pus.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You have a fever.
- You have trouble swallowing or cough after you swallow food or fluid.
- You have more mucus than usual, or it changes color or has a bad odor.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
You may need any of the following:
- Antibiotics may be given to prevent or fight a bacterial infection.
- Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Wash your hands:
Always wash your hands before and after you take care of your wound and stoma. This will help prevent infection. Use soap and running water.
- Work with your speech therapist as directed. The therapist will help you develop good speaking and swallowing skills.
- Clean the surgery wound as directed. Your healthcare provider may suggest you use hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound.
- Deep breathe and cough as directed. This will help prevent a lung infection. Take a deep breath and hold the breath as long as you can. Then push the air out of your lungs with a deep, strong cough. Take 10 deep breaths in a row every hour that you are awake, even during the night. Remember to follow each deep breath with a cough.
- Carry medical alert identification. Wear jewelry or carry a card that states you had a partial or total laryngectomy. This can help healthcare providers if you are in a medical emergency.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods will help you recover from surgery. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, low-fat dairy products, nuts, and cooked beans.
- Drink liquids as directed. Liquids will help prevent a dry throat. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
Stoma care helps prevent infections. You will be taught to clean the stoma, check for infection, and remove secretions (mucus) before you leave the hospital. The following are general guidelines to help you remember what you are taught:
- Keep your stoma clean. Use a cotton swab dipped in hydrogen peroxide to clean the edges of the stoma. Remove crusts and mucus. Your healthcare provider may suggest you clean the stoma each morning and evening, and as needed during the day. Check the stoma for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus.
- Keep your stoma dry. Cover the stoma before you get into the shower. Keep your back to the shower head to keep water away from the stoma. Try to keep the shower head below the level of your stoma. Do not swim. Even with a stoma cover, your risk for drowning is increased after a laryngectomy.
- Use suction to remove secretions from the stoma. If you cannot cough strongly, you will use a suction device to remove mucus and fluid. Insert the catheter until it is just past the end of the tube. Your healthcare provider will show you how far to insert the catheter. The catheter may have measurements marked on it for you to follow. You can mark the catheter so you do not put it in too far. Cover the suction valve as you remove the catheter. It should take you less than 15 seconds to remove the suction catheter.
- Use a humidifier in your home. This will help prevent crusts from forming around the stoma. Put a humidifier in the room where you sleep so you breathe humid air during the night. Ask about a mask to help humid air get into the stoma. This type of mask is usually only needed until the skin around the stoma heals.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.