Vocal Cord Paralysis

vocalcordFollowing a stroke some people have problems with their voice. This is known as vocal cord dysfunction or vocal cord paralysis. The most common manifestations of this disorder are a hoarse and/or weakened voice. Sometimes, there is spontaneous recovery over time; however, there are many people for whom vocal cord dysfunction or vocal cord paralysis following stroke is a permanent condition.

There are several viable treatment options available, but most of the traditional procedures do not restore normal muscle function to the damaged areas. The doctors of The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction are pioneers in procedures that “restore form and function” to injured parts of the body. That includes people with vocal cord dysfunction and vocal cord paralysis.

Our experts in microsurgical nerve reconstruction surgery offer a procedure to transplant nerves to reverse vocal cord dysfunction following stroke. This pioneering procedure is another option for people suffering with a hoarse or weakened voice.

Q&A with the Specialists

Q: What is vocal cord paralysis?

Vocal cord paralysis results from disruption of nerve impulses to the small muscles controlling the “voice box”, resulting in hoarseness, vocal weakness, swallowing difficulties, and breathing disturbances.

Q: What are the causes of vocal cord paralysis?

The most common causes of vocal cord paralysis include: stroke, surgical complications, viruses, tumors, and traumatic injuries. For example, surgery performed in the upper chest cavity, or mediastinum, to treat tumors or heart disorders can cause vocal cord paralysis.

Q: What are the nerves that are injured in vocal cord paralysis?

The nerves that may be damaged in vocal cord paralysis are the recurrent laryngeal nerve and the superior laryngeal nerve. Both of these are branches of the vagus nerve, a large and important “cranial nerve” in our body.

Q: How is vocal cord paralysis diagnosed?

Vocal cord paralysis is suspected in someone that develops hoarseness and is confirmed on a flexible fiberoptic examination of the upper airway. This test involves placing a small endoscope through the nose and into the throat to visualize the vocal cords and determine if there is an abnormality. Measuring nerve conduction to the vocal cords can also be used to diagnose vocal cord paralysis during a diagnostic procedure called a Laryngeal EMG.

Q: What are the treatment options?

There are three types of treatments for vocal cord paralysis. The first is vocal therapy, or physical therapy for the vocal cords, a regimen that attempts to strengthen the weakened muscles. If this is unsuccessful there are surgical options. Phonosurgery involves repositioning the vocal cords to restore vocal activity, usually with injections or implants into the region of the vocal cords, although this does not restore normal function to the paralyzed muscle. The third option is nerve reconstruction, a procedure that involves transfer of a functioning nerve in the neck to the paralyzed nerve in an effort to permit nerve regeneration to occur. The goal of this procedure is to allow the paralyzed vocal cord muscle to recover normal, or near-normal activity.

At The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction we take a multi-disciplinary approach to the management of vocal cord paralysis. Accordingly, we offer all available surgical options and are amongst only a handful of surgeons nationally that performs nerve reconstruction for vocal cord paralysis. Please contact us to determine if you or someone you know may be a surgical candidate to treat vocal cord paralysis.

Want to learn more?

Please contact us if you want to learn more about vocal cord dysfunction.

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