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Laryngoscope. 2007 Oct;117(10):1864-70.

Vocal fold immobility: a longitudinal analysis of etiology over 20 years.

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Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Henry Ford Medical Group, Detroit, Michigan, USA.



To determine the current etiology of vocal fold immobility, identify changing trends over the last 20 years, and compare results to historical reports.


The present study is a retrospective analysis of all patients seen within a tertiary care institution between 1996 and 2005 with vocal fold immobility. The results were combined with a previous study of patients within the same institution from 1985 through 1995. Results were compared to the literature.


The medical records of all patients assigned a primary or additional diagnostic code for vocal cord paralysis were obtained from the electronic database.


Eight hundred twenty-seven patients were available for analysis (435 from the most recent cohort), which is substantially larger than any reported series to date. Vocal fold immobility was most commonly associated with a surgical procedure (37%). Nonthyroid surgeries (66%), such as anterior cervical approaches to the spine and carotid endarterectomies, have surpassed thyroid surgery (33%) as the most common iatrogenic causes. These data represent a change from historical figures in which extralaryngeal malignancies were considered the major cause of unilateral immobility. Thyroidectomy continues to cause the majority (80%) of iatrogenic bilateral vocal fold immobility and 30% of all bilateral immobility.


This 20-year longitudinal assessment revealed that the etiology of unilateral vocal fold immobility has changed such that there has been a shift from extralaryngeal malignancies to nonthyroid surgical procedures as the major cause. Thyroid surgery remains the most common cause of bilateral vocal fold immobility.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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