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Aim of this study was to find out how many patients after a total laryngectomy (TLE) return to work successfully and what factors support vocational rehabilitation.
Laryngectomees (n=231) aged up to 60 years completed questionnaires and structured interviews before TLE (t1), before rehabilitation (t2), at the end of rehabilitation (t3), 1 year after TLE (t4), 2 years after TLE (t5), and 3 years after TLE (t6).
Prior to TLE, 38% of all respondents were employed, 34% were unemployed, 23% received disability-related and 3% age-related pension retirement. One year after TLE, 13% were employed, 15% 2 years and 14% 3 years after TLE. Unemployed were 10% (t4), 5% (t5), and 7% (t6) of the patients. For 59% of all respondents it was very important to have a job. Predictors of successful vocational rehabilitation were employment prior to TLE, age <50 years, being self-employed or clerical employee, good physical functioning, good speech intelligibility, high motivation to go back to work, and support from colleagues.
Only few laryngectomees return to work. However, even before TLE only a third of the patients was employed, another third was unemployed. Most of the patients receive pension retirement after TLE. As return to work is important for many patients, patient consultations should consider possibilities to support vocational rehabilitation before offering to apply for retirement.