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Surgery for Hoarseness

Any change of the voice is understandably a concern for patients, especially when those changes include breathy or raspy sounds or a noticeable change in pitch and even some degree of discomfort from vocal strain. Most of the time, hoarseness is a temporary condition due to throat irritation or overuse of the vocal cords. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to restore the normal sound of the voice.

Possible Causes of Hoarseness

Whether or not surgery is necessary depends on the source of the vocal changes. If hoarseness is due to an infection, as is the case with laryngitis, medication can ease the discomfort. Hoarseness may also be caused by a growth on the vocal cords. Conditions that may result in masses on the vocal cords include:

  • Vocal cord nodules: Non-cancerous growths similar in appearance to calluses
  • Vocal cord polyps: Fluid-filled lesions that develop due to vocal cord strain and overuse
  • Vocal cord papilloma: Wart-like growths caused by HPV (human papilloma virus)

Surgery may also improve voice problems caused by:

  • Vocal cord paralysis – a condition where the vocal cord is unable to move
  • Vocal cord cancer, or throat cancer

When Is Surgery Considered?

The purpose of surgery for hoarseness is to remove troublesome growths. Surgery often becomes necessary if vocal cord growths are causing chronic hoarseness that cannot be alleviated by voice therapy.

Some types of cancers are best treated by surgery. Additionally, vocal cord paralysis that is persistent requires a procedure to improve the voice.

Surgical Options for Hoarseness

Surgery is commonly performed in the operating room, through the mouth without the need for any cuts on the neck. A small hollow tube is placed in the mouth and a microscope is used to view the vocal cords. Small instruments are then used to remove abnormal tissue. It's often accompanied by the removal of the problematic growth(s).

Recovery and Follow-Up Care

For the most part surgery is outpatient and patients are sent home one to two hours after surgery. There is often a period of “voice rest” where patients should not talk to allow the voice to heal. However, the day after surgery, patients are often able to resume their regular routine.