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Friday, January 21, 2011

A successful larynx transplant

In one of the most complex transplant surgeries ever performed, an international team of surgeons at UC Davis Medical Center has restored the voice of Brenda Charett Jensen  who had been unable to speak for more than a decade. The surgical team replaced the larynx (voicebox), thyroid gland and trachea (windpipe) in a 52-year-old woman who had lost her ability to speak in 1999 after her larynx was injured by a tracheal tube during surgery and became non-functional. BecauseBrenda's own larynx had not been removed prior to the transplant, the surgeons were able to identify all of the veins, arteries, muscles and nerves that enable the larynx to survive and function, and connect them to the transplant. The 18-hour operation, which took place in October 2010, is the second documented case of its kind in the world. The patient voiced her first words in 11 years 13 days after the surgery and is currently able to speak easily and at length.
Currently, transplantation is not an option for everyone who suffers from a missing or nonfunctioning larynx because it requires a lifelong regimen of immunosuppressant medications to prevent organ rejection. These medications are not something that cancer patients should take because they can interfere with their immune system's ability to fight the cancer. As a kidney-pancreas transplant recipient four years ago and already taking anti-rejection medications, Jensen was a unique candidate for the procedure. 

Larynx front view