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What is a Cordectomy?

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  • Written By: Andy Josiah
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2016
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Cordectomy is a term used for a type of oral or maxillofacial surgery that involves removing vocal cords, which are also known as vocal folds. These are bands of muscle that are horizontally located at the larynx. Although the procedure is used for humans, cordectomy is also popular for its application on dogs. The procedure has several alternate terms that usually describe the part of the body affected, the instruments used, or the type of patient operated on.

The word "cordectomy" is of Greek origin. It is based on "chorde," which refers to the vocal cords, and "ektome" which denotes excision or removal. There are several types of cordectomies. For instance, an extended cordectomy sometimes refers to operation of the subglottis, the lower region of the larynx responsible for transporting air to the body's lungs. Another version of the procedure, subepithelial cordectomy, involves removal of lining tissue known as epithelium. A third example is partial posterior cordectomy, which physicians use to widen the airway of the larynx of patients with vocal cord paralysis.

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The type of cordectomy that surgeons use depends on the medical condition of the patient or its severity. In humans, it is most commonly used for treating laryngeal carcinoma, a type of cancer that ravages the larynx. Most cases involve occurrence in the glottis, which is the part of the larynx consisting of the vocal cords and the space between them. In some instances, however, the cancer may be restricted to the epithelium. Surgeons would need to remove the affected parts to prevent any chances of metastasis, as the cancer can spread to the lymph nodes and the blood.

One of the main instruments surgeons rely on in cordectomies is the endoscope. This is a flexible video camera that can be inserted into the body to examine the area for intended operation, which is why the procedure is sometimes called endoscopic cordectomy. Then a surgical agent known as a cauterant is introduced to destroy the vocal cord by searing, freezing or burning it. Examples of cauterants include searing iron, electric current and carbon dioxide laser.

Cordectomy, when used on dogs, is alternatively named de-barking or surgical bark removal. This is employed by veterinary surgeons as a last resort to curb excessive or chronic barking. Physicians performing cordectomy on dogs go through the mouth or the larynx. Although the latter method is more expensive, it does not leave scar tissue like the former option. After the surgery, dogs have a softer, quieter bark than before.

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