Diagnosis of unilateral recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis: laryngeal electromyography, subjective rating scales, acoustic and aerodynamic measures

Laryngoscope. 2006 Mar;116(3):359-64. doi: 10.1097/01.MLG.0000199743.99527.9F.


Objective/hypothesis: To determine whether specific laryngeal electromyography (LEMG) patterns in patients with unilateral vocal fold paralysis/paresis (UVFP) are related to etiology of injury, time from onset of injury, patient perception of symptom severity, acoustic measures, and laryngeal aerodynamic measures.

Study design: This is a retrospective review of 75 patients.

Methods: Each patient received LEMG, acoustic and aerodynamic testing, and a subjective rating scale assessment (the Glottal Closure Index). Statistical analysis by groups were performed using both chi and single-factor analysis of variance testing.

Results: An iatrogenic etiology was associated with poor tone on LEMG (P = .05). Those individuals evaluated after 3 months after onset demonstrated more nascent units, a sign of reinnervation, compared with individuals evaluated before 3 months (P < .02). Individuals with fewer normal motor units on LEMG had significantly higher mean translaryngeal air flows (P = .044). Individuals with poor recruitment had significantly shorter maximum phonation times (P = .034) and higher mean flows (P = .044). Individuals with better laryngeal tone as noted on LEMG had significantly lower mean flows (P = .06).

Conclusions: Specific LEMG patterns are related to the etiology of the UVFP and time course since recurrent laryngeal nerve injury. LEMG appears to reflect vocal fold muscle tone as seen on laryngeal function studies. In combination, these studies provide a cohesive assessment of laryngeal function in patients with UVFP.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Respiratory System
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Larynx / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phonation / physiology*
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Speech Acoustics*
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis / diagnosis*
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis / physiopathology