Vocal Fold Paralysis


Unilateral vocal fold paralysis is a condition in which one of the vocal folds does not move (also referred to as an immobile vocal fold). The vocal folds close when you voice or swallow. Paralysis of one vocal fold usually results in poor and/or incomplete closure of the vocal folds.

What causes Vocal Fold Paralysis?

The most common causes of unilateral vocal fold paralysis is injury to the recurrent laryngeal nerve (the nerve that controls movement of the vocal fold) from surgical procedures (such as thyroidectomy, cervical spinal surgery, cardiac surgery, lung surgery) or from intubation; viral inflammation of the nerve, referred to as a viral neuropathy; compression of the nerve by masses adjacent to the nerve; and neurological conditions.

How could Vocal Fold Paralysis affect me?

If you have one vocal fold that does not move you may experience vocal symptoms such as breathiness and/or weakness/quietness of the voice, fatigue of the voice with prolonged talking, and poor projection of the voice. Often people with paralysis of one vocal fold have difficulty swallowing, such as coughing or choking when swallowing (especially liquids).  Your neck and/or throat may also feel tired and may ache.

How is Vocal Fold Paralysis treated?

Vocal fold paralysis is treated by a Laryngologist (ENT Surgeon) and a Voice Therapist (Speech-Language Therapist). The Voice Therapist will teach you vocal techniques and will help you to optimise your voicing to improve how your voice sounds and feels. Surgery to augment the vocal fold is often necessary to improve closure of the vocal folds. Vocal fold augmentation is achieved either by injecting an absorbable filler for temporary augmentation, or by inserting permanent implants into the vocal fold.