Diagnosis of vocal cord dysfunction in asthma with high resolution dynamic volume computerized tomography of the larynx

Respirology. 2009 Nov;14(8):1106-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1843.2009.01629.x. Epub 2009 Aug 25.


Background and objective: Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) often masquerades as asthma and reports have suggested that up to 30% of patients with asthma may have coexistent VCD. Diagnosis of VCD is difficult, in part because it involves laryngoscopy which has practical constraints, and there is need for rapid non-invasive diagnosis. High speed 320-slice volume CT demonstrates laryngeal function during inspiration and expiration and may be useful in suspected VCD.

Methods: Endoscopy and high resolution 320-slice dynamic volume CT were used to examine and compare laryngeal anatomy and movement in a case of subglottic stenosis and in a patient with confirmed VCD. Nine asthmatics with ongoing symptoms and suspected VCD also underwent 320-slice dynamic volume CT. Tracheal and laryngeal anatomy and movement were evaluated and luminal areas were measured. Reductions in vocal cord luminal area >40%, lasting for >70% duration of inspiration/expiration, were judged to be consistent with VCD.

Results: Studies of subglottic tracheal stenosis validated anatomical similarities between endoscopy and CT images. Endoscopy and 320-slice volume CT also provided comparable dynamic images in a patient with confirmed VCD. A further nine patients with a history of severe asthma and suspected VCD were studied using CT. Four patients had evidence of VCD and the median reduction of luminal area during expiration was 78.2% (range 48.2-92.5%) compared with 10.4% (range 4.7-30%) in the five patients without VCD. Patients with VCD had no distinguishing clinical characteristics.

Conclusions: Dynamic volume CT provided explicit images of the larynx, distinguished function of the vocal cords during the respiratory cycle and could identify putative VCD. The technique will potentially provide a simple, non-invasive investigation to identify laryngeal dysfunction, permitting improved management of asthma.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asthma / complications*
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Endoscopy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Larynx / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiration
  • Tomography, Spiral Computed / methods*
  • Trachea / pathology
  • Vocal Cords / pathology
  • Vocal Cords / physiopathology*
  • Voice Disorders / diagnostic imaging*
  • Voice Disorders / pathology
  • Voice Disorders / physiopathology*


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones