Laryngeal ultrasound and vocal fold movement in the pediatric cardiovascular intensive care unit

Laryngoscope. 2017 Jan;127(1):167-172. doi: 10.1002/lary.26051. Epub 2016 Apr 23.


Objectives/hypothesis: Vocal fold motion impairment (VFMI) is a known sequela of cardiovascular surgery. The gold standard for the evaluation of vocal fold movement is flexible nasolaryngoscopy (FNL). Although safe, FNL does cause measurable physiologic changes. Noxious stimuli in cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) neonates may cause imbalance between the pulmonary and systemic circulations and potentially circulatory collapse. The goals of this project were to determine the accuracy of laryngeal ultrasound (LUS) compared to FNL to identify VFMI in CVICU neonates and compare their physiologic impact.

Study type: Case control.

Design: Prospective case-control study.

Methods: Forty-six consecutive infants from the CVICU were recruited, 23 with VFMI and 23 without based on FNL findings. They then underwent LUS, which was subsequently reviewed by two pediatric radiologists blinded to the FNL results. Physiologic parameters were recorded before and after the procedures. Data analysis was performed with Cohen's kappa and Wilcoxon signed-rank test.

Results: Agreement between LUS and FNL was substantial (κ = 0.78). Laryngeal ultrasound had a sensitivity of 0.84 and specificity of 0.95 for identifying VFMI. In terms of physiologic impact, LUS caused statistically significantly less change in diastolic blood pressure (P = 0.01), pulse (P = 0.001), and O2 saturation (P = 0.004) compared to FNL. Arytenoid rotation could be seen clearly, and the vocal fold-arytenoid angle in abduction was most predictive of symmetry and movement (P = 0.17). However, it was difficult to determine vocal fold closure patterns with LUS.

Conclusion: Laryngeal ultrasound is a comparable to FNL for evaluating vocal fold mobility with less physiologic impact.

Level of evidence: 3b. Laryngoscope, 127:167-172, 2017.

Keywords: Ultrasound; larynx; vocal fold motion impairment; vocal fold paralysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric*
  • Laryngoscopy / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Ultrasonography / methods*
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis / etiology*
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis / physiopathology*