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What Is Tracheal Shave?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 09, 2021

Most people who opt to go under the knife for a tracheal shave are those born male in the process of gender reassignment and feel their Adam’s apple is too prominent. Some women who have a naturally enlarged Adam’s apple may also elect to have this procedure done.

In simple terms, a tracheal shave, medically called chondrolaryngoplasty, is a surgical procedure to reduce the size of your Adam’s apple.

What Is Adam’s Apple?

The thyroid cartilage is the “apple” shaped bump on your throat. It contains your larynx or voice box. Because men grow a larger larynx than do women, their Adam’s apple is more obvious.

How Is Tracheal Shave Performed?

The procedure can be performed under either local or general anesthesia, but you do not need to be admitted to hospital. Your plastic surgeon makes a minor incision is made on the chin and then scrape or ‘shave’ away and restructure the cartilage, reducing its size.

Unlike many gender reassignment procedures, the WPATH — which is the World Professional Association for Transgender Health — does not need to issue a letter of readiness for this process.

But remember that, after the procedure is completed, you will need to have someone take you home.

What Can You Expect?

Tracheal shave almost always a necessary part of a full gender transformation process. However, this is not a miracle cure and some patients have not been entirely satisfied with the outcome.

In a 2018 study on patient satisfaction after tracheal shave, patients who underwent a tracheal shave were asked if:

  • they were satisfied with how their neck and Adam’s apple looked
  • their neck or Adam’s apple appearance affected their social or professional appearance‌
  • their Adam’s apple was the best it could be
  • they were interested in further operation
  • their neck or Adam’s apple still looked very prominent
  • their voice was different than that before surgery

The patients were mainly satisfied with the results.

Remember to discuss all the questions you have with your doctor before having tracheal shave. Tracheal shave can have some physical limitations; for example, removing too much material may cause permanent damage to the vocal cords.‌

The scar left from the surgical cut may also remain visible, though your surgeon will attempt to disguise this as best as possible in a fold or shadow under your chin.

‌‌‌If you are having the procedure for the reasons of gender reassignment, consider contacting the Transgender and Intersex Specialty Care Clinic, a division of the Mayo Clinic, to discuss all your questions and concerns.

What Are Its Complications, and How Is the Recovery?

Despite this being a relatively minor procedure, tracheal shave can lead to complications, including:

These symptoms, although temporary, may be uncomfortable. The stitches are removed after about 1 week after the procedure, with full recovery expected in a month.

How Much Will It Cost?

Trachea shave will probably cost you between US$3000 and US$5000, but be prepared to pay anesthetic costs over and above this. Also, as the procedure is generally considered cosmetic, it is unlikely that your insurance company will cover the cost.

Decisions for any part of the gender reassignment process should not be made without extensive personal research and introspection. The physical and psychological effects of the included procedures including tracheal shave may be extremely demanding. So, make sure that you receive professional counselling before you take any such steps.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Dr Angela Sturm: “The Ultimate Guide to Tracheal Shave Surgery”.

Mayo Clinic: “Addressing the challenges of transgender health care,” “Feminizing surgery.” 

PRS Global Open: “Patient Satisfaction after Aesthetic Chondrolaryngoplasty.” 

UW Health: “Letters of Readiness for Gender Affirmation Surgery.”

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