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Thyroid. 2015 Jun;25(6):665-71. doi: 10.1089/thy.2014.0467. Epub 2015 Apr 14.

Thyroidectomy in the professional singer-neural monitored surgical outcomes.

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1Division of Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, Massachusetts.
2Division of Surgical Oncology, Endocrine Surgical Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
3Division of Laryngology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, Massachusetts.
4Division of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, Southern Illinois School of Medicine, Springfield, Illinois.



Voice changes commonly occur from thyroidectomy and may be due to neural or nonneural causes. Such changes can be a source of significant morbidity for any patient, but thyroidectomy in the professional singer carries special significance. We test the hypothesis that the career of singers and professional voice users is not impaired after neural monitored thyroid surgery.


A quantitative analysis of pre- and postoperative neural monitored thyroid surgery voice outcomes utilizing three validated vocal instruments-Voice Handicap Index (VHI), Singing Voice Handicap Index (SVHI), and Evaluation of Ability to Sing Easily (EASE)-in a unique series of professional singers/voice users was performed. Additional quantitative analysis related to final intraoperative electromyography (EMG) amplitude, the time to return to performance, and vocal parameters affected during this interval was performed.


Twenty-seven vocal professionals undergoing thyroidectomy were identified, of whom 60% had surgery for thyroid cancer. Pre- and postsurgery flexible fiberoptic laryngeal exams were normal in all patients. Return to performance rate was 100%, and mean time to performance was 2.26 months (±1.61). All three vocal instrument mean scores, pre-op vs. post-op, were unchanged: VHI, 4.15 (±5.22) vs. 4.04 (±3.85), p=0.9301; SVHI, 11.26 (±14.41) vs.12.07 (±13.09), p=0.8297; and EASE, 6.19 (±9.19) vs. 6.00 (±7.72), p=0.9348. The vocal parameters most affected from surgery until first performances were vocal fatigue (89%), high range (89%), pitch control and modulation (74%), and strength (81%). Final mean intraoperative EMG amplitude was within normal limits for intraoperative stimulation and had no relationship with time to first professional performance (p=0.7199).


Neural monitored thyroidectomy, including for thyroid malignancy, in professional voice users is safe without any changes in three different voice/singing instruments, with 100% return to performance. Intraoperative EMG data at the conclusion of surgery and postoperative laryngeal exam were normal in all patients. Specific vocal parameters are transiently affected during the postoperative recovery phase, which is important to outline in the consent process of this unique patient population and may provide insight into the physiologic state of the larynx subsequent to thyroid surgery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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