Vocal Cord Surgery

Dr. Todd Snowden specializes in vocal cord surgery, vocal cord paralysis treatment, and vocal cord dysfunction treatment. Options include voice therapy, injections and surgery. If you are living with vocal cord issues, our Jacksonville, FL team is here for you. Our ear, nose and throat specialists have decades of experience.

Vocal Cord Surgery

Some patients may develop thickening, nodules, or polyps of the vocal cords. These can be caused by harsh coughing, acid reflux, and even mild trauma from an endotracheal tube during anesthesia. These vocal cord lesions may persist for months and may cause persistent voice changes.

Sometimes the best option is vocal cord repositioning, where a healthy nerve is moved to replace the damaged vocal cord. If both vocal cords are paralyzed, a tracheotomy may be needed to create an opening in the windpipe for air to flow.

Spasmodic Dysphonia

Spasmodic dysphonia is a neurologic disorder affecting the voice and speech. It is a chronic condition that causes the muscles of the larynx to go into periods of spasm. This causes the voice to have a tight, strained or strangled sound. It can range from mild trouble saying a word or two to severe disease causing a complete loss of voice. It most often affects women, with symptoms starting between the ages of 30 and 50.

Treatment with voice therapy may help, but one of the most reliable treatments is laryngeal Botox injection. Dr. Snowden has been performing laryngeal Botox injections for nearly thirty years. He performs this procedure under anesthesia in the operating room. Depending on the individual, injections may have to be repeated every four to six months.

What Causes Vocal Cord Paralysis

We need our vocal cords to speak, swallow and breathe properly. When one of the vocal cords becomes weak or paralyzed, those functions may be severely affected. Vocal cord paralysis can be caused by nerve damage, injury to the head, neck or chest, lung or thyroid cancer, certain viral infections and other diseases.

If your vocal cords don’t recover on their own after voice therapy, various surgical options can help you find symptom relief. In the first stage, Dr. Snowden can use injections or a structural implant to reposition the paralyzed vocal cord. If both vocal cords are paralyzed, a tracheotomy may be needed to create an opening in the windpipe for air to flow.

Vocal Cord Paralysis Symptoms

In mild cases, you may notice difficulty speaking, with a hoarse voice or changes in your vocal pitch or volume. In more severe cases, you may experience shortness of breath, coughing, choking and trouble swallowing (dysphagia). You may feel like there is mucous or something caught in your throat you can’t clear.

What to Expect After Vocal Cord Paralysis Treatment

Post-Operative Instructions

After vocal cord surgery, it’s very important to rest your voice for one to two weeks, or as directed by your ear, nose and throat surgeon. That means speaking as little as possible. Do not whisper, yell, shout or sing, and avoid coughing or clearing your throat. If you must talk, do so in a low, soft voice.

Here are additional instructions for after your vocal cord procedure:

What Are the Possible Risks of Vocal Cord Surgery?

Complications related to vocal cord surgery are rare. With vocal surgery, there is always a chance that your voice may not improve. Additional risks include injury to the lips, teeth and mouth.

There is also a low risk of worsened hoarseness after surgery. This loss of voice quality can be permanent and can be accompanied by fatigue with prolonged speaking.

Complications of Vocal Cord Paralysis Treatment

As with any surgical procedure, there is also a risk of bleeding, infection, scarring, poor healing, and the need for further surgery. Other unforeseen complications, such as a problem related to your other medical conditions, can also arise. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call our office. Dr. Snowden and our team of ear, nose and throat experts are always here to help.

Frequently Asked Questions – Vocal Cord Paralysis Treatment

The vocal cords are located in your voice box (the larynx) at the top of your windpipe (trachea). They are directly behind your Adam’s apple. 

The vocal cords, also known as vocal folds, look like two bands of pearly white muscle. 

The vocal cords open when you breathe and make a V-shape. They close when you speak and vibrate together to make sound. When you eat, they close to prevent food from going down your windpipe. They also trigger coughing to clear your airway.

Yes, vocal cords are muscles. Contrary to their name, they are not individual cords. They are connected to various cartilage and muscles in your voice box. That’s why it takes a skilled and experienced ear, nose and throat surgeon to perform vocal cord surgery. 

Typically, it takes one to two weeks for your vocal cords to heal after surgery. That means absolutely no yelling, shouting, singing, whispering, throat clearing, coughing or talking, if you can avoid it.

Voice therapy can be helpful after vocal cord surgery. Even just one to two sessions can help rebuild normal function as you incorporate simple voice exercises into your routine.