Treatment of bilateral vocal cord paralysis following permanent recurrent laryngeal nerve injury

Am J Otolaryngol. 2012 May-Jun;33(3):285-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2011.07.009. Epub 2011 Sep 15.


Bilateral vocal cord paralysis is a serious illness requiring emergency intervention to resolve the potentially life-threatening respiratory distress. Several surgical procedures were proposed to help improve the airway and to eliminate the tracheostoma in those patients with permanent paralysis. All the procedures have their own advantages and disadvantages. We conducted a retrospective study of 30 patients affected by bilateral vocal cord paralysis following total thyroidectomy. All the patients underwent total thyroidectomy for benign thyroid pathology. In 26 patients (86.6%), cord paralysis occurred during the perioperative stage; and in the remaining 4 cases (13.3%), it occurred within the following 6 months. We treated all these bilateral recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis patients with arytenoidectomy alone in 5 patients and arytenoidectomy with concomitant true and false posterior cordectomy in the remaining 25 patients. Twenty-four of the 25 patients who underwent the combined procedures (96%) reported subjective respiratory improvement and were decannulated within 60 days, being able to return to their normal daily activities. This study demonstrates that arytenoidectomy associated with posterior cordectomy is a satisfactory surgical treatment of bilateral vocal cord paralysis because it leads to a considerable and stable enlargement of the breathing space.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Arytenoid Cartilage / surgery*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Otorhinolaryngologic Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve Injuries / complications*
  • Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve Injuries / diagnosis
  • Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve Injuries / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thyroidectomy / adverse effects*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis / diagnosis
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis / etiology
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis / surgery*
  • Vocal Cords / surgery*