Professor Pierre Delaere (Otorhinolaryngology section, K.U.Leuven) has in the past decade developed a new surgical technique for larynx reconstruction. In an increasing number of cases, this innovative technique can save the larynx in patients suffering from vocal cord cancer. Patients are able to breathe, swallow and speak normally following the operation, something that was previously impossible since the entire larynx frequently needed to be removed, even if only one vocal cord was affected.
The larynx separates the digestive system and the respiratory system. If the larynx is removed then the separation must be effected in some other way. Persons without a larynx can still eat if the oesophagus is connected directly to the oral cavity. However, this means that breathing through the mouth and nose becomes impossible and a permanent opening (stoma) for the trachea has to be made in the patient’s neck. This is a very conspicuous intervention and results in many problems of adaptation. Speech is still possible using an apparatus placed in the stoma, but the patient must cover the opening with his finger.
Prof. Delaere investigated why the larynx was completely removed in almost every case. In part, this is a result of the complex structure of the larynx itself. If part of the larynx is removed, two main problems arise: new tissue must be found to replace what has been removed, and the supply of blood must be optimal to ensure that the new tissue does not die.
Pierre Delaere | alfa
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