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J Voice. 1993 Dec;7(4):359-64.

Effects of vagal nerve stimulation on laryngeal function.

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  • 1University of Miami School of Medicine, Department of Otolaryngology, FL 33101.


Functional electrical stimulation is a developing methodology that shows significant potential in the management of peripheral neuromuscular deficits. Potential applications in the head and neck area, including control of bilateral vocal fold paralysis and spasmodic dysphonia, have recently been explored. Despite promising early results, very little is known about the mechanisms of action or the long-term effects of electrical stimulation on human laryngeal function. Recent development of implantable vagal nerve stimulators as a method to control intractable seizures in individuals who have not responded to medication provides a unique opportunity to study its effect on the normal human larynx. Laryngeal and vocal function testing was studied on five individuals who had undergone vagal nerve stimulator implants for intractable seizures. Consistent abduction/adduction of the left vocal fold was achieved at 20 and 40 Hz, respectively. Higher levels of electrical stimulation produced hemispasm of the larynx. Results were consistent with studies in the literature of recurrent laryngeal nerve stimulation in animal and human models. The vagus nerve provides relatively easy access for implantation of electrodes to provide electrical stimulation to the muscles of the larynx. Vagal nerve stimulation may prove efficacious in the treatment of movement disorders of the larynx; further study is needed.

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