The technique, called a tracheoesophageal puncture (TEP), is an incision between the trachea and esophagus that is then fitted with a small plastic or silicone valve , researchers say this new surgical technique may help restore speech to head and neck cancer patients who have had their voice box and tongue removed.
Researchers say that TEP, combined with post operative speech rehabilitation therapy, can provide understandable speech communication and improve the quality of life of select cancer patients who might otherwise be unable to talk.
Two groups of cancer patients who underwent laryngectomies (removal of the voice box) and glossectomies (removal of the tongue) were evaluated to see how they would fare after a TEP. One group had a primary TEP, performed at the time of their laryngectomy and glossectomy. The other group received secondary TEP, performed after being screened from a population of head and neck cancer patients who had already had their tongues and voice boxes removed.
After six months, researchers say all the patients who received a secondary TEP were satisfied with their speech intelligibility results. However, those who had received a primary TEP did not develop functional speech.