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Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2014 Dec;78(12):2169-73. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2014.10.003. Epub 2014 Oct 16.

Differential diagnosis in paradoxical vocal fold movement (PVFM): an interdisciplinary task.

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Communication Disorders and Sciences Rehabilitation Institute Southern Illinois University Carbondale USA. Electronic address:



The objective of this study was to contribute to the discussion of differential diagnosis in paradoxical vocal fold movement (PVFM), a disorder frequently associated with episodes of breathing difficulty and stridor. Because of analogous respiratory symptoms, PVFM is often misdiagnosed as asthma. Additional evidence suggests the association of factors such as respiratory struggle during physical exertion, digestive reflux, and respiratory allergies with PVFM, particularly in athletes and young females. Interdisciplinary attention is warranted to avoid unnecessary utilization of medical resources and potential delay in the application of proper treatment.


A description of critical points in PVFM differential diagnosis is proposed, featuring the assessment of a seven-year-old female with a history of behaviors considered to exacerbate voice fatigue symptoms. Noticeably, the child has consistently demonstrated tiredness and respiratory difficulties during physical education classes. Past use of oral steroids to reduce respiratory problems was applied with no improvement; short-acting beta 2-agonists have been also tried with mild improvement. Indications of instability and effort associated with respiratory-phonatory functions were demonstrated. Furthermore, there was evidence of GERD and seasonal allergies.


The literature suggests an association of factors such as respiratory struggle during physical exertion, unwanted vocal effort, GERD, and respiratory allergies in individuals with PVFM, particularly in young females. A diagnosis of PVFM was suggested, in association with paradoxical vocal folds motion caused by respiratory difficulties verified by laryngeal examination.


In PVFM, the vocal folds adduct during inhalation, thereby restricting the airway opening. Inconsistent vocal folds movement during phonation may also lead to PVFM symptoms. Acute bronchospasm/asthma-like symptoms, as well as additional morbidity may impact accuracy of diagnosis, leading to unnecessary use of asthma medications and office/emergency room consultations.


Differential diagnosis; Interdisciplinary approach; Paradoxical vocal fold movement

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