Each year around 1,000 individuals need to have their voice box removed and transplanted a new one instead. This happens due to mechanical injury of the throat while swallowing large amounts of food, or infections. These injuries become so severe that they prohibit the person to speak or even to breathe. A larynx transplant is regarded as one of the toughest surgical interventions mostly because of the intricacies involving the nerve system. There is also the commitment required from the patient, consisting of him or her taking anti-rejection medication for life.
The doctors who are qualified to perform the transplant will not, however, hurry to oblige a patient. There are issues that need to be discusses first, like the changes in voice, taste and smell which the patient will suffer after undergoing surgery.
Letting these issues aside, experts from the Royal College of Surgeons in London, believe that this type of transplant must be done in Britain without further delay. If the first procedure takes place successfully, the country will be the third one in the world that will manage such an attempt.
The one who will most certainly be leading the procedure will be Prof. Martin Birchall from University College London. His team will select either a man or a woman who need a transplant as soon as possible. The doctor is not new to the procedure as he was part of a team that successfully transplanted a voice box and a windpipe to an American woman.
Those who are serious enough to undergo such a procedure need to conform to a psychological test in order for the doctors to ascertain whether the psychological toll can be handled or not.
“Loss of a larynx removes many things that make us quintessentially human, through loss of speech, swallowing and altered appearance,” explained Prof Birchall.
“We have been working on this for a long time and this report gives us the green light to go ahead. It also gives us guidance on aspects such as psychological assessment. It is an incredibly balanced report,” he added.
The larynx represents one of the most important tools for communication for humans, who need to use it on a daily basis expressly for interactions on a linguistic level.