Therapy of bilateral vocal fold paralysis: Real world data of an international multi-center registry

PLoS One. 2019 Apr 29;14(4):e0216096. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216096. eCollection 2019.


Purpose: To collect data on diagnosis, treatment, patient's management, and quality of life in patient with bilateral vocal fold paralysis (BVFP).

Methods: A retrospective, observational, multicenter registry study was performed. Medical records of 326 adults with permanent BVFP (median age: 61 years; 70% female, 60% after thyroid surgery) generated between 2010 and 2017.

Results: Median time between BVFP onset and inclusion was 1.2 years. Median post-treatment follow-up was 2 months (range: 0-42). Surgery was treatment of choice in 61.7% of the cases, with a 2-year revision rate of 32.4%. Prior to inclusion, 40.2% of the patients underwent at least one surgery. For tracheotomized patients, decannulation rate was 33.8%. Non-surgical treatments included voice therapy and botulinum toxin injection. Corticosteroid application was the most frequent treatment for post-treatment complications (18%; 1-month after surgery). Older age was an independent predictor for dyspnea (Hazard ratio [HR] = 1.041; CI = 1.005 to 1.079; p = 0.026) and the need for oxygen treatment (HR = 1.098; CI = 1.009 to 1.196; p = 0.031). Current alcohol consumption (HR = 2.565; CI = 1.232 to 5.342; p = 0.012) and a cancer-related etiology (HR = 4.767; CI = 1.615 to 14.067; p = 0.005) were independent factors of higher revision risk.

Conclusions: Surgery for BVFP is currently not standardized but highly variable. Postoperative and BVFP-related complications and revision surgery are frequent. Complications are linked to patients' alcohol drinking habits and BVFP etiology. These results shall be confirmed by the upcoming evaluation of the prospective data of this registry.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Internationality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Probability
  • Registries*
  • Reoperation
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis / surgery
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis / therapy*
  • Vocal Cords / surgery

Grants and funding

The registry was sponsored by MED-EL Elektromedizinische Geräte GmbH, Innsbruck, Austria. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.