Pharyngectomy

We strive to ensure you receive the correct and proper treatment for your cancer care. This is why we offer comprehensive surgeries like total pharyngectomy. The procedure is designed to treat cancers of the throat and neck with precision and care.

Pharyngectomy is the surgical removal of the pharynx, a cone-shaped cavity that connects the esophagus to the nose and mouth. The surgery is used mainly to treat cancer of the hypopharynx and conditions like pharyngitis.

There are various forms of the procedure. Some remove a portion of the pharynx (partial pharyngectomy) while others remove it completely (total pharyngectomy). When a pharyngectomy also requires removal of the larynx, or voice box, it is known as a laryngopharyngectomy.

The operation is performed as an inpatient surgical procedure and administered under general anesthesia. In order to ensure precise diagnosis and staging of your condition, your doctor will first perform diagnostic tests which may include a physical exam, a laryngoscopy, an MRI or CT scan of the head and neck, or a biopsy using a fine needle aspiration. 

In a total pharyngectomy, the entire pharynx is removed. During the procedure, your surgeon will make a large incision in the front of your neck. Using subsequent incisions, your surgeon carefully cuts around the pharynx, detaching it from the larynx and surrounding tissue.

Once removed, the area is cleansed and the wound is closed. When cancers of the hypopharynx are more severe, the larynx may also be removed, which would require further procedures such as a tracheotomy and reconstructive surgeries. These are performed together with the pharyngectomy.

Because removal of the pharynx takes place in such a sensitive part of the body, a pharyngectomy poses a variety of risks. Patients may develop pharyngocutaneous fistulas in the neck and need to learn new breathing techniques after surgery. Patients may also experience the following after a pharyngectomy:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots (hematoma)
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing or eating

Patients who require removal of the larynx along with their pharyngectomy procedure (laryngopharyngectomy) are likely to endure a loss of voice. At Providence, our team of doctors, speech pathologists, voice rehabilitation specialists and psychologists work together to support you after your pharyngectomy. Over time, your team of caregivers will provide the resources necessary to improve your quality of life post-operation.