After your operation

You usually go back to the ward after your operation. 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 will explain the exercises to you.

Breathing and speaking after a laryngectomy

After a total laryngectomy, you start breathing 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.

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.

You will not be able to speak at first. But you can communicate by mouthing words, writing or using a communication chart. If you have a mobile phone or tablet, there are apps that can read aloud whatever you type in. Being unable to speak can be frustrating and difficult to cope with. But it is important to remember that most people who have a laryngectomy will able to speak again. But you may speak differently to how you did before surgery. You will get plenty of support and information from your healthcare team.

Pain

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

You may have pain relief through a syringe, connected to an electronic pump. The pump gives a continuous dose of pain relief (analgesia) over a set time.

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.

You have some thin tubes (called wound drains) attached to you that drain fluid from your operation site. This allows your wound to heal. Tell your doctor or nurse if these are uncomfortable. They are usually taken out 2 to 4 days after surgery.

A drip going into a vein in your 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 can be 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 the possible changes in your appearance. It is important to have a good idea of what to expect.

Operations that are done in the mouth or throat can often cause swelling, so 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 some 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.

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