Idiopathic vocal cord palsies and associated neurological conditions

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2005 Dec;131(12):1086-9. doi: 10.1001/archotol.131.12.1086.


Objective: To retrospectively review the clinical case records of patients with idiopathic vocal cord palsies (VCPs) for the presence of preexisting or subsequent development of neurological disease, including multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease, myasthenia gravis, cerebrovascular disease, and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Design: Retrospective case review of all patients with VCP presenting sequentially within a 45-month time span.

Setting: Tertiary referral center.

Patients: One hundred ninety-three patients with VCP.

Results: Thirty-five cases of VCP (18.1%) were idiopathic. Eight (22.8%) resolved after a mean time of 5 months. A preexisting central nervous system condition was noted in 9 (25.7%) of 35 patients with idiopathic VCP. A subsequent central nervous system condition developed in 7 patients (20.0%). These included 2 cases of cerebrovascular accidents, 1 case of postpolio syndrome with respiratory failure, and 1 case of polyneuropathy secondary to paraneoplastic syndrome.

Conclusions: A high frequency of neurological conditions was observed in adult patients initially presenting with idiopathic VCP. Patients with VCP but without overt neurological disease may also subsequently develop a serious neurological condition. Careful neurological evaluation of all patients with idiopathic VCP is recommended.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis / epidemiology*
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis / physiopathology