After your operation

You usually go back to the ward after your laryngectomy. You may be looked after in an intensive-care or high-dependency unit for 1 or 2 days. 

The doctors and nurses can make sure your breathing is safe and give you pain relief. 

After your operation, you are encouraged to start moving around as soon as possible. This is an important part of your recovery. 

It is important to do regular leg movements and deep-breathing exercises. This helps prevent a blood clot forming. A physiotherapist may explain the exercises to you.

Breathing after a laryngectomy

After a total laryngectomy, you will be able to breathe and cough through the stoma straight away. 

You may need extra oxygen to help you breathe for a short while. The nurses give you oxygen through a special mask, which fits over your stoma.

Talking after a laryngectomy

You will not be able to talk at first. But you can communicate by mouthing words, writing or using a communication chart. If you have a mobile phone or tablet, you could use an app that reads what you type aloud.

Not having a voice can be frustrating and difficult to cope with. It is important to remember that most people who have a laryngectomy are able to speak again. But you may speak differently to how you did before surgery.

Your speech and language therapist (SLT) will support you with your communication, and you will get support and information from your healthcare team. 

We have more information about different ways to talk after a laryngectomy.

Coughing after a laryngectomy

You might have mucus in your airway, so you may cough a lot in the beginning.

When you cough, the mucus will come out of the stoma in your neck. Your nurses and physiotherapist will show you breathing exercises to help clear the mucus. 

Your nurse can also use a thin, flexible suction tube to remove the mucus. They can do this until you get used to the changes in your breathing.


Your doctor or nurse will talk to you about managing or preventing pain after your surgery.

You may have your painkillers as an injection, or through a syringe connected to an electronic pump. The pump gives a continuous dose of pain relief over a set time. Pain relief may be called analgesia. 

You may also have a hand control with a button to press if you feel sore. This is called patient-controlled analgesia (PCA). It is designed so you cannot have too much pain relief. This means you can press it whenever you are uncomfortable.

Always tell the nurses if you are in pain. They may be able to increase the dose or change the pain relief.

Drips and drains

You may have several drips and drains in place for a few days after surgery. You are encouraged to get out of bed and move around from the first day after surgery. The nurses help you with the drips and drains when you are out of bed.

Wound drains

You have some thin tubes called wound drains attached to you. These drain fluid from your operation site and allow your wound to heal.

Tell your doctor or nurse if these are uncomfortable. They are usually taken out 2 to 4 days after surgery.

Drips and feeding tubes

A drip going into a vein in the arm gives you fluids for a few days. You also have a feeding tube for liquid foods and medicines.

You should be able to eat and drink again once your throat has healed. This usually takes 1 to 2 weeks, but it can take longer.

You will need to increase your eating gradually. Your dietitian or speech and language therapist (SLT) can give you advice you about this.

Changes to your appearance

Before your operation, your surgeons and specialist nurse can talk to you about possible changes in your appearance. It is important to have a good idea of what to expect.

Operations to the larynx often cause swelling. Your face and neck may look swollen after the operation. This slowly gets better over time.

Scars are usually red or dark to begin with, but slowly fade over time.

It can take time to adjust to changes in how you look. It is important to know that support is available. We have more information about coping with changes in your appearance.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our laryngeal cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    ESMO Annals of Oncology. Squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity, larynx, oropharynx and hypopharynx. EHNS-ESMO-ESTRO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up. 2020. Available from (accessed Jan 2022).

    NICE Guideline NG36. Cancer of the upper aerodigestive tract: assessment and management in people aged 16 and over. 2018. Available from (accessed Jan 2022).

    NICE Technology Appraisal TA736. Nivolumab for treating recurrent of metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck after platinum-based chemotherapy. 2021. Available from (accessed Jan 2022).

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Claire Paterson, Consultant Clinical Oncologist. 

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 June 2022
Next review: 01 June 2025
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.