Vocal Cord Paralysis – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is vocal cord paralysis?
Vocal cord paralysis is a condition caused by injury to nerves going to the vocal cords. These nerves are called laryngeal nerves. The injury can occur to one or both the nerves. Vocal cord paralysis is rare.
What causes vocal cord paralysis?
The following are the common causes of vocal cord paralysis:
- A complication of neck or chest surgery (especially thyroid, lung, heart surgery, or cervical spine surgery)
- A breathing tube in the windpipe (endotracheal tube)
- A viral infection that affects the nerves
- Tumors in the neck or upper chest, such as thyroid or lung cancer
- Part of a neurological condition
What are the symptoms of vocal cord paralysis?
The following are the common symptoms:
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty swallowing
How is vocal cord paralysis diagnosed?
Your doctor will check to see how your vocal cords are moving. Abnormal movement may mean that a laryngeal nerve is injured. The doctor may do the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:
- CT scan of the chest
- MRI of the brain, neck, and chest
How is vocal cord paralysis treated?
Treatment depends on the cause of the injury. In some cases, no treatment may be needed and the nerve may recover on its own. Voice therapy is useful in some cases.
If surgery is needed, the goal is to change the position of the paralyzed vocal cord to improve the voice. This is usually done with the following procedures:
- Arytenoid adduction (stitches to move the vocal cord toward the middle of the airway)
- Injections of collagen, Gelfoam, or another substance
If both the left and right laryngeal nerves are injured, a hole may need to be cut into the windpipe (tracheotomy) right away to allow breathing. This is followed by another surgery at a later date.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.