Voice Surgery: A Follow-Up Report Author: Sarah S.
This article is reproduced on Feminet by permission of JSS. Please note that the surgical fees have since risen to $6000. or more The following was published in PASSAGES, the newsletter of "The Gathering", the support organization for transsexual individuals in the New York area, May, 1987. It is reproduced on JSS with permission granted by the editor. Permission is also granted to any other individual or organization to distribute this text, provided that this message is left intact. For more information on "The Gathering," please write to P.O. Box 21052, Columbus Circle Station, New York, NY 10023. Voice Surgery: A Follow-Up Report By Sarah S. (Editor's Note; The following is a report on a new surgical procedure which is being performed on the vocal cords by two California physicians in order to help M-F TSs achieve a pleasant and natural feminine voice. Sarah S. recently underwent the surgery and offers the following report, which has been slightly edited.) Both physicians specialize in surgery of the head and neck. Their most celebrated work is in the fields of hair flap transplants/ hairline advancement and design and VOCAL CORD MODULATION. Dr. Mayer specializes in the latter, a technique developed by physicians in Japan. To my knowledge, no one else is performing this specific technique, although Dr. Paul of Sacremento has done a few voice modulations using the unpopular and complication-ridden technique of shortening the vocal cords by severing them. (Barbara's note: this is apparently a reference Dr. Paul Donald, FRAS, at the Univ. Cal. at Davis Medical Center. I have personally corresponded with Dr. Donald, and his technique does NOT sever vocal cords, nor have serious complications resulted. Dr. Donald's method differs from Dr. Meyer's in that the vocal cords are made to fuse at one end by means of removal of a layer of tissue and temporary binding with absorbable sutures. The work is done under a general anesthetic. A high percentage of patients have been very pleased with the outcome, with the best improvement going to those who began with the deepest pitch range. Dr. Donald's technique is detailed in an article in the journal "Head and Neck Surgery." Based on what I know at this time, Dr. Donald's technique is at least equivalent to Dr. Meyer's, and apparently at a considerably lower cost.) In Dr. Mayer's approach, the vocal cords are not cut nor the voice box tampered with. He fashions the cartilage that exists behind the cords into an elongated "shoestring" tissue. Then, as one ties a shoelace or wraps the frayed ends of a piece of rope, he binds the cartilage to the upper and lower extremities of the vocal cords. This raises the voice pitch, since the vibrating portion of the cords has been shortened. The entire procedure is performed under LOCAL anesthesia. The patient determines the desired pitch as she counts backwards from 100 while the doctor tightens or loosens the binding until the preferred pitch has been attained. I opted to have my thyroid cartilage (Adam's Apple) reduced at the same time. This dual procedure (voice modulation and thyroid cartilage shaving) lasted 1-1/2 hours and cost $2,200. As of this writing, the fee has risen to $2500. I cannot quote the two procedures individually or how the fee is divided between them. I have gradually become more positive about the success of the voice pitch that has been surgically obtained. Due to the swelling and healing of tissues, a hoarseness will persist anywhere from two weeks to six months postoperatively. This depends on the individual and how much and how often the voice is used. By all means, one should be virtually silent for the first two weeks after the operation to accelerate the disappearance of hoarseness. (Editor's note: C'mon! NO woman can remain virtually silent for two hours, let alone two weeks!) As well as being able to choose your desired pitch, another advantage of this surgery is that it prevents slipping back into a masculine vocal range. The deep registers have been eliminated. Likewise, the unnatural falsetto voice used before the operation will also be eliminated. To be sure, the surgery provides one with a natural-sounding female voice. I would recommend this procedure and would advise prospective patients to listen to some of the tapes Dr. Mayer has, to guage the before and after results of others. The surgeons are Drs. Richard W. Fleming and Toby G. Mayer. Their address is Suite 216, 9730 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Their telephone number is 213-278-8823.