March 22, 2014

Device that Allows Intubated Patients to Talk

Image by Calleamanecer in Wikipedia
There is nothing worse than to be very sick. It's even worse if you are intubated in the ICU (intensive care unit) being poked and prodded constantly. Traditionally, such sick intubated patients (if alert) will communicate by writing on a clipboard which is often frustrating to not just the patient, but also family members and healthcare professionals trying to care for the patient.

However, NEJM reported on the use of an electrolarynx to allow intubated patients to "talk". Electrolarynx is traditionally used by patients who have had their voicebox removed due to cancer (laryngectomy). Held similarly to a razor, a patient is able to talk by mouthing words while pressing the electrolarynx against the neck The electrolarynx produces vibrations within the throat that allows for speech sounds. See video below to see how it works.

Apparently, this device can also be used by intubated patients to communicate with caregivers. According to the article, speech by intubated patients occurred after only 2 minutes of instruction. Optimal placement of the electrolarynx was between the upper trachea and the sternocleidomastoid muscle. A video is shown in the article webpage demonstrating a patient who is intubated talking using an electrolarynx.

Electrolarynx can be purchased on

Speech in an Orally Intubated Patient. N Engl J Med 2014; 370:1172-1173March 20, 2014DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc1313379

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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