Swallowing after Surgery

Across facilities and medical practices, there are different protocols followed regarding the use of feeding tubes during radiation treatment. Many laryngectomees will have a gastrostomy tube placed at the time of their laryngectomy surgery. Of, course, whether a gastrostomy tube is used or a nasogastric tube is in place, all patients are required to use a feeding tube of some form while recovering from their laryngectomy surgery. The decision as to when oral intake, or eating by mouth, can begin will be determined by your surgeon and is based on how well the reconstructed throat is healing. It is very important you follow the instructions of your surgeon regarding when to begin eating and the types of foods you will be able to eat. Introducing food or liquid material into your mouth and newly reconstructed throat can create large problems if you have not healed sufficiently from surgery. Your surgical team will determine when it is safe for you to resume eating again.

Many physicians will clear you to begin eating orally but limit the texture and/or temperature of the foods and liquids you are allowed. If these restrictions are placed, it is usually to allow you to begin eating again but you still have further recovery to make before resuming your regular diet. Failing to follow any guidelines of this nature can result in prolonged healing and recovery time as well as potential complications. Always consult your surgical team if you are unclear as to what you are cleared to take in by mouth after surgery.


by Katrina M. Jensen, Fort Worth, Texas, USA