The voice handicap index with post-laryngectomy male voices.

Eryl Evans, Paul Carding, Michael Drinnan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Surgical treatment for advanced laryngeal cancer involves complete removal of the larynx (‘laryngectomy’) and initial total loss of voice. Post-laryngectomy rehabilitation involves implementation of different means of ‘voicing’ for these patients wherever possible. There is little information about laryngectomees' perception of their changed voice quality and communication status. Surgical voice restoration (SVR) has become the ‘gold standard’ rehabilitation, but there continue to be patients who use other methods of communication. There is no clear evidence comparing patients' perception of their voice handicap across different types of alaryngeal communication.

Aims: To compare the self-assessed vocal handicap of laryngectomees using SVR with those using non-SVR methods of post-laryngectomy communication.

Methods & Procedures: Potential participants were identified from one Head and Neck cancer centre in South Wales. They included both male and female participants using all methods of post-laryngectomy communication. Each patient's Voice Handicap Index (VHI) score, sub-set scores, and group means were calculated. Two major confounding factors: age and time since surgery, and communication method (SVR/non-SVR), were considered to identify factors, other than method of communication, which may influence rehabilitation outcomes.

Outcomes & Results: A total of 71 questionnaires were sent out and 62 (82%) were returned from 35 patients who had undergone SVR and 27 patients who used non-SVR methods of communication. Of the non-SVR group, twelve used oesophageal voice, eleven an electrolarynx, two writing and two mouthing for communication. The gender ratio (53:9), age (43–90 years) and time since surgery (1–40 years) were broadly representative of this population, but because of the small number of females, we excluded the women from further analysis. Individual VHI scores ranged from 4 to 106. Both the SVR and non-SVR group mean scores: 44.7 and 50.9, were within the range of moderately severe voice handicap. There was no significant difference between the groups for total VHI scores or two of the three sub-domains, nor any significant effect on voice handicap due to the confounding factors assessed: age or time since surgery. The total VHI score was better by 6.5 (− 4.9 to 17.9) points in the SVR group (p = 0.3), probably reflecting the literature reporting superior voice in SVR.

Conclusions & Implications: The data suggest that where patient-assessed quality of life is concerned, SVR and non-SVR outcomes are comparable. This is an important consideration when planning and carrying out treatment recommendations. The study has clear clinical implications; understanding the potential of all methods of post-laryngectomy communication is essential for holistic patient management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-586
Number of pages12
JournalInternational journal of language & communication disorders
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2009
Externally publishedYes


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