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World's first laryngeal transplant recipient almost fully recovers voice.

Two years after the world's first and, to date, only laryngeal transplant, US doctors reported that the patient has almost completely recovered his vocal capabilities.

"He has pitch--not perfect, but he absolutely speaks in a normal voice with pitch, which is almost impossible to imagine without hearing it, but it is truly amazing--it still gives me goosebumps," said surgeon Marshall Strome, MD, chairman and professor of otolaryngology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, where the surgery was performed.

The transplant recipient had sustained severe trauma to his larynx in a motorcycle accident 20 years previously and could speak only with the aid of a device pressed against his throat. During the groundbreaking operation, Strome replaced 70% of the patient's larynx with donor tissue.

"We now know that it takes 1.5 years for the voice to completely mature to what it's going to be after transplant," said Strome, who believes that the surgery will become more routine in the coming years. Potential candidates include the nearly 10,000 Americans diagnosed each year with laryngeal cancer. "The next patient will be someone who is 5 to 10 years after having his or her larynx resected."

The high cost of the operation--about $110,000--and the fact that it's not yet covered by insurance makes it prohibitively expensive for hospitals and patients. "The letters I get (from patients) would make you cry, saying that they just want to be human again," Stone reported. "I have patients lines up for this operation, but they can't afford it. We had a lot of publicity at the time of the surgery...but 2 years later, the money just isn't there."
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Comment:World's first laryngeal transplant recipient almost fully recovers voice.
Publication:Transplant News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 16, 2000
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