California woman regains voice in rare transplant

LOS ANGELES:A California woman has regained her voice after a rare operation that marks the second time surgeons have successfully performed a larynx transplant, doctors said on Thursday.Brenda Jensen, 52, underwent an 18-hour operation over two days in October at the University of California, Davis Medical Center. She was able to form her first words within 13 days.On Thursday, after weeks of rehabilitation to regain her ability to speak normally, Jensen, a mother from Modesto, California, met with the entire surgical team for the first time since the operation.Doctors say Jensen was an ideal and rare candidate for the larynx, or voicebox, transplant, because after receiving a kidney and pancreas transplant in 2006, she was already taking a regimen of medications to guard against organ rejection.

The risk of organ rejection, along with the complexity of working on the larynx with its intricate nerves, accounts for why voicebox transplants are rarely done, doctors said.The only other documented larynx transplant was performed in 1998 at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.Jensen spent nearly four weeks in the hospital following the surgery. She was able to form her first words on October 29, but her voice was croaky. Since then she has been able to improve her ability to speak, the hospital said.Since 1999, when Jensen paralyzed her vocal chords by pulling out a ventilation tube during a hospital procedure, she has spoken through an electronic larynx device that allows a patient to form words but with a robot-like quality of sound – Yahoonews