A pharyngectomy surgical procedure that involves the removal of part or all of the pharynx, which is the part of the throat that extends from the back of the nose down to the entrance of the esophagus and the larynx (voice box). This surgery is often performed to treat cancers of the pharynx or other conditions that have significantly damaged or obstructed the pharynx.
The extent of a pharyngectomy depends on the location and spread of the disease. If the cancer is small and localized, only the portion of the pharynx containing the tumor may need to be removed, a procedure known as a partial pharyngectomy. In more advanced cases where the cancer has spread to a larger area, a total pharyngectomy, which involves the removal of the entire pharynx, may be required.
A pharyngectomy can significantly impact a patient’s ability to swallow and speak. For this reason, the procedure often involves reconstructive surgery to rebuild the pharynx. This reconstruction might utilize tissue grafts taken from another part of the patient’s body (flap reconstruction) or synthetic materials. Depending on the extent of the surgery, some patients may require a temporary or permanent tracheostomy, which is an opening made in the neck for breathing.
The procedure may also be performed as part of a more extensive surgical intervention, such as a laryngopharyngectomy, which involves the removal of both the larynx and the pharynx, or a commando procedure, which includes the removal of the pharynx, part of the jaw, and the lymph nodes in the neck.
Postoperatively, patients will likely require significant rehabilitation, including speech and swallowing therapy, to adjust to the changes in their throat. Psychological support may also be beneficial due to the potential impact on self-image and communication ability.
The risks of a pharyngectomy, as with any major surgery, include complications from anesthesia, infection, bleeding, and complications related to reconstruction. However, this procedure can be life-saving for those with pharyngeal cancer and can potentially improve quality of life in patients suffering from severe pharyngeal disease.