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Bilateral Vocal Fold Paralysis

Bilateral vocal paralysis is a condition in which neither vocal fold is able to move. This may be a result of a mass impinging on the nerves which control the larynx such as thyroid and esophageal cancer or may be a result of a surgical procedure.

Individuals with bilateral vocal fold paralysis are often short of breath because the vocal folds are unable to open and allow air in. Noisy breathing, or stridor, often occurs as effort is needed to inhale against the obstruction.

Before treating bilateral vocal fold paralysis imaging such as a CT or MRI is necessary to evaluate the head and neck for any lesiosn which can be causing symptoms.

One option to treat of bilateral vocal fold paralysis involves removing a portion of the vocal fold to increase the size of the airway. Unfortunately this can make the voice worse as a resut. The arytenoid cartilage, which is located at the back of the vocal fold may be removed in part to increase the size of the airway while only minimally affecting a patient’s voice. The arytenoid cartilage is not critical for voice production, and patients who undergo this procedure are able to communicate easily after surgery.

If you have noisy breathing, stridor or bilateral vocal fold paralysis please contact Dr. Sunil Verma, Director of the University Voice and Swallowing Center at (714) 456-7017.