Tracheal shave & voice: recovery and aftercare

Tracheal shave & voice: recovery and aftercare

What can you expect after a tracheal shave, and how to take care of yourself and your voice to improve recovery time.

What to expect after your tracheal shave?

  • Swelling—There may be swelling 24-48 hours after your tracheal shave. This is normal and can last for up to six weeks. We understand that this can be distressing, as you think you will not be able to breathe. You really don’t need to worry about this. The trachea is very strong and doesn’t succumb to this temporary pressure.
  • Pain—The pain you experience after your tracheal shave feels a bit like a throat infection. It is difficult to talk and swallow, and you have a burning sensation in your throat. This pain can last for about seven to ten days.
  • Scarring—Initially, the scar will be red and visible. A year after your tracheal shave all that will be left is a narrow white line and you will hardly be able to see it due to its placement in a natural crease.
  • Subcutaeneous air- Very often, it’s unavoidable that a hole towards the windpipe is created during a tracheal shave. This will of course be closed by suture, but it’s very normal that some air will escape from the windpipe during speech or coughing. However, after a few days/weeks this will heal on its own without any treatment.
Trachea shave adams apple reduction

What is happening with your voice and why?

It’s possible that the quality of your voice will lessen after the surgery. This can be caused by these two things:

  • During surgery and general anaesthesia, the patient needs to be intubated. That means a tube will be placed in between the vocal cords to ventilate the patient during surgery and this can affect the mucus of your vocal folds.
  • There is laryngeal swelling for a few months. This will affect your external laryngeal muscles that can affect your voice range and voice quality.

So it’s NORMAL that after the surgery and during the recovery, you will have:

  • A smaller voice range
  • Lesser voice quality: a croaky/hoarse voice
  • A sore throat
  • Tension in your throat/neck area
  • Difficulties swallowing or talking


What to do:

  • Take vocal rest: take a pause after talking for a while
  • Avoid pressure changes: Avoid coughing and clearing your throat with effort, emit sounds while performing a physical or muscular effort (for example lifting a weight).
  • Use the yawn to relax the pharyngo-buccal area.
  • Inhale hot steam (inhalator) without aromas that will dry you out (eg eucalyptus, menthol), to recover the mucus of your vocal folds
  • Voice relaxation exercises (from Katrien)
  • Voice flexibility exercises (from Katrien)
  • Give yourself and your body the time to recover, so the swelling can go down. Stress is an important factor, the more stress you experience, the slower recovery might be.
  • If you still feel like you’re having problems with your voice after a month, just contact us at or at!

Read all about the tracheal shave procedure.


Typically how long is it after surgery to get your voice back to “normal”?

The voice cords need about 2-3 weeks to make normal use of the voice possible. We cannot exactly, if you use your voice extensively for professional reasons, when this is 100% back as before. We have no feedback on this matter.

Will a tracheal shave compromise my voice feminization surgery?

No it will not. Dr Bart van de Ven wrote an informative blogpost on a tracheal shave and voice feminization surgery. 



How will the scar be after an adams apple reduction?

All incisions leave a small white line in the end.

As this line is placed in an discrete spot (angle between neck and chin), it will be as good as invisible from most angles.

After two weeks nobody should notice from a distance. After 1 year the scar will be completely healed (white).

How the swelling and the bruise of the tracheal shave looks after 2 weeks?

In general you will hardly notice anything. But occasionaly (1 every 50 patients) there is some postoperative bleeding, which needs about a 6- 8 weeks to completely dissolve.

Will reducing the adam’s apple have any negative effects on my voice?

That is why we plan a CT scan to know exactly where are the vocal cords and how much cartilage can be removed. Until know we didn’t have one patient who had this complication.
It is possible though that oedema (swelling) of the vocal cords caused by irritation by the tube that was introduced by the anaesthesiologist or the surgery itself makes the voice weak and/or coarse for a period of about 2 weeks .

You still have another question? Feel free to ask! We will answer your question and if generally applicable add it to the FAQ of this page.

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