Vocal Cord Paralysis

vocalcord

Vocal cord paralysis (also known as vocal fold paralysis) a debilitating condition that commonly presents as a hoarse voice and/or weakened voice.  Many patients also suffer from swallowing difficulties and breathing issues.  The most common cause of unilateral or one sided vocal cord paralysis is due to complications that occur during other surgeries.  The most common of these surgeries is thyroid surgery, followed by cervical spine surgeries, carotid artery surgery and procedures involving the chest.  Other potential causes include head and neck cancers (including vocal cord cancer), neurological disorders such as a stroke and other systemic disease processes.

Sometimes, there is spontaneous recovery over time; however, damaged vocal cords may lead to permanent vocal cord dysfunction or vocal cord paralysis for some patients.

Standard treatment options often include procedures that may shift the position of the vocal cords through surgery or injections.  However, these procedures do not treat the underlying muscle which has been affected. Nerve reconstruction is a procedure in which the underlying affected muscle is reinnervated, allowing for a more dynamic approach to care.  Following this procedure, the muscle bulk is restored as well as the sensory nerve with subsequent improvement in a patient’s voice as well as their swallowing abilities.

The surgeons at The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction are pioneers in procedures that aim to “restore form and function” to injured parts of the body. This includes surgical options for vocal cord dysfunction treatment and vocal cord paralysis treatment.

Our experts in microsurgical nerve reconstruction surgery offer a procedure to transplant nerves to reverse vocal cord dysfunction in a variety of disease processes.  This advanced 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 disruptions.

 Q: What are the causes of vocal cord paralysis?

The most common causes of vocal cord paralysis include: surgical complications, stroke, 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?

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.



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