Paradoxical vocal cord motion: classification and treatment

Laryngoscope. 2012 Apr;122(4):844-53. doi: 10.1002/lary.23176.


Paradoxical vocal cord motion (PVCM), or vocal cord dysfunction, is a descriptive term for inappropriate adduction of the vocal folds during respiration. The laryngeal mistiming leads to breathing difficulty and is often misdiagnosed as refractory asthma. The etiology of PVCM has been unclear but has long been hypothesized to be psychological. The present thesis is a prospective study of 170 patients older than 18 years being evaluated for PVCM, with 117 of the 170 (68.8%) identified as having PVCM by video laryngoscopy. Laryngeal edema (P = .021) and reflux (P = .026) were increased in patients with PVCM. A flat inspiratory arm of the flow volume loop during spirometry testing was a predictor of PVCM (P = .034). A subgroup of 47 newly diagnosed patients with PVCM underwent psychological analysis. The psychological profiles were elucidated using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and the Life Experiences Survey to evaluate stress. Compared to established normative data, PVCM demonstrated a conversion disorder pattern (P < .01) but not an anxiety disorder or a correlation with stress. A subgroup, 11 of the 47 (23.4%), had normal psychological outcomes, and two of the 47 (4.3%) were identified as malingering. Previous studies have suggested that PVCM is strictly a psychological disorder. It is proposed that PVCM is a descriptive term that is multifactorial and the etiology should direct treatment. A classification scheme divides PVCM into primary, or psychological, and secondary. The secondary form consists of medical disorders divided into irritable larynx syndrome and neurologic disorders.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Diseases / classification*
  • Laryngeal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Laryngeal Diseases / therapy
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychometrics / methods
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Vocal Cords / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult