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Vocal Cord Paralysis

Vocal cord paralysis is a condition in which one of the vocal cords does not move. Normal voice production involves two vocal cords which move together to produce sound. During vocal cord paralysis the nerve which controls the vocal folds, does not work.

Symptoms of vocal cord paralysis are:

  • Weak and breathy voice
  • Poor voice projection or difficulty "getting loud"
  • Vocal fatigue or voice tiring easily
  • Chronic cough and frequent throat clearing
  • Difficulty swallowing certain foods
  • Feeling "out of breath" after speaking

Treatment of vocal cord paralysis:

Vocal cord paralysis treatment usually involves one of the following interventions. All treatments for vocal fold paralysis involve moving the vocal fold to the midline so that proper sound is made, thus improving the voice and cough mechanism.

Vocal cord injection:

A vocal cord injection is a procedure in which a filling agent such as collagen "bulks" the paralyzed vocal cord. Sunil Verma, M.D., the director of the University Voice and Swallowing Center is an expert in performing the procedure in minimally-invasive fashion with the patient awake. After numbing medication is sprayed into the patient's throat, a needle injects the filler material into vocal cord to cause an immediate change in the voice. The effect of an injection is immediate and can last from months to over a year.

Thyroplasty:

During thyroplasty, a small plastic implant is custom made and inserted into the voice box to optimally position the immobile vocal cord to make sound. This procedure is performed in the operating room under 'twilight' anesthesia so that the voice can be optimally adjusted. The implant causes a permanent voice change. Voice, cough and sometimes swallowing improves after this surgery. Patients are able to eat the same day of surgery and are discharged after one night observation in the hospital.

Laryngeal reinnervation procedure:

This surgery was invented at the University of California-Irvine as a result of Dr. Roger Crumley's lifelong interest in vocal fold paralysis. The ansa cervicalis nerve, a nerve found in the neck is used to re-innervate the recurrent laryngeal nerve. As a result of Dr. Crumley's work numerous centers in the United States, Europe and Asia have adopted the reinnervation procedure.

Treatment for vocal fold paralysis often also involves voice therapy with one of our talented speech an language pathologists.

To make an appointment with one of our laryngologists, Dr. Sunil Verma or Dr. Roger Crumley, please call 714-456-7017.