The most noticeable symptom is the dramatic voice change: the voice becomes hoarse, breathy, and weak, and speaking at loud volume or over background noise becomes very challenging. People may also find that they occasionally cough or choke when swallowing, particularly when swallowing liquids.
Diagnosing the paralysis is straightforward and is based on a patient’s history as well as a visual examination of the throat using a miniature camera. To find the cause of the paralysis, physicians may also perform a cat scan of the neck and chest or an electromyogram (EMG) test.
Individualized for every patient, treatment depends upon the cause and duration of the paralysis, and the extent of the disability. Some cases of vocal fold paralysis resolve on their own, although it may take weeks to months, and if the symptoms are mild, vocal therapy can also work. A temporary injection laryngoplasty to push the immobile vocal fold to the midline will help restore a strong voice while awaiting nerve reinnervation. The injection itself may also help encourage reinnervation. If the immobility is permanent, it is almost always possible to achieve a normal or near normal voice with various types of surgery and possibly voice therapy. Find out more about the various treatments for vocal fold paralysis.
The Prognosis for vocal fold paralysis is excellent, and our treatment options at the Voice and Swallowing Institute have excellent outcomes.