Diagnosis and treatment of paradoxical vocal fold motion in infants

Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2018 Apr:107:6-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2018.01.027. Epub 2018 Feb 20.


Importance: Paradoxical vocal fold motion (PVFM) is a disorder often misdiagnosed in children presenting with shortness of breath and stridor. In infants, little is known about the clinical course and best approach for treatment of PVFM. This retrospective study assesses the approach to treatment and outcomes for infants with PVFM.

Objective: To investigate the clinical course of paradoxical vocal fold motion (PVFM) in infants.

Design: Retrospective review.

Setting: Tertiary academic medical center.

Participants: Patients less than 2 years of age diagnosed with PVFM were identified and included in the study.

Main outcomes and measures: History, physical exam findings, and clinical course of treatment for patients less than 2 years old with PVFM were reviewed. Findings including those on flexible fiberoptic laryngoscopy (FFL) and subjective assessment by parents and clinicians were compiled for review.

Results: Seven infants were diagnosed with PVFM. All patients were full term at birth, and average age at diagnosis was 7 months. All patients initially presented with inspiratory stridor, and two patients had stertor. Two of seven patients also had a history of reactive airway disease and one with laryngomalacia. Five had a history of reflux. Two of seven patients had weight percentiles at diagnosis lower than the 25th percentile, while the remainder were between 37th and 75th percentiles. Initial voice evaluation revealed stridor in all patients, as well as finding of PVFM on FFL. All patients were started on anti-reflux medication. Average time to resolution of PVFM was 5.9 months after treatment.

Conclusions: PVFM can be challenging to diagnose in the infant population. PVFM resolves uneventfully with reflux treatment, however, it is unknown whether reflux treatment is essential or if PVFM would spontaneously resolve. The rarity of infantile PVFM mandates formal evaluation and monitoring by a pediatric otolaryngologist.

Keywords: Paradoxical vocal fold motion; Pediatric laryngology; Vocal fold dysfunction; Voice disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Laryngoscopy / methods
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vocal Cord Dysfunction / diagnosis*
  • Vocal Cords / pathology*
  • Voice