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Controversial voicebox transplant gets approval in UK

A controversial voicebox transplant could be performed in the UK within months, after experts gave the procedure the go-ahead. It would be the first ti...

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|Jun 20|magazine6 min read

A controversial voicebox transplant could be performed in the UK within months, after experts gave the procedure the go-ahead.

It would be the first time the transplant was carried out in the UK and only the third procedure of its kind in the world.

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) reviewed the ethics, technical evidence and patient support required for a voicebox transplant and concluded that the procedure can improve quality of life.

It is now thought that the first UK voicebox transplant will be performed on a patient who has a damaged voicebox, either through an accident or cancer.

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A damaged voicebox, or larynx as it is otherwise known, can make breathing, swallowing, and speaking incredibly difficult if not impossible.

People can also experience difficulty with things like coughing, kissing, or smelling.

Although a voicebox transplant can help to cure patients of these difficulties and drastically improve someone’s quality of life, the procedure is surrounded with controversy and risk.

Patients would have to rely on taking anti-rejection medication after the operation, which technically is a complex procedure involving the connecting of nerves.

There are also some concerns that a voicebox transplant can alter the patient’s sense of smell or taste and could even change the way their voice sounds.

Professor Martin Birchall from the University College London, will head up the team which is going to carry out the first procedure.

He was involved in an operation last October in which an American women received a double voicebox-windpipe transplant.

The first voicebox transplant was performed in Ohio in 1998 on a man who damaged his voicebox in a motorbike accident.