Effect of Medialization on Dyspnea Index in Unilateral Vocal Fold Paralysis

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2022 Aug;167(2):327-333. doi: 10.1177/01945998211056515. Epub 2021 Nov 9.


Objective: Patients with unilateral vocal fold paralysis commonly report dysphonia and dysphagia. Dyspnea also occurs, with studies on treatment-related change producing mixed results. Studies including patient-reported outcomes have focused on single-question global scales. The Dyspnea Index (DI) includes 10 questions, is specific to upper airway-related dyspnea, and may better capture these patients' symptoms. We evaluated change in DI after treatment.

Study design: Retrospective review.

Setting: Academic medical center.

Methods: Forty-three patients with unilateral vocal fold paralysis underwent injection augmentation (n = 25) or framework surgery (n = 18). DI was recorded preprocedure, 2 to 4 weeks afterward, and at approximately 3 months afterward in 19 patients. Voice Handicap Index-10, Glottal Function Index, Cough Severity Index, and Eating Assessment Tool-10 were also recorded. Change in parameters and correlations were assessed. Obesity, cardiac disease, pulmonary disease, and procedure (injection vs framework surgery) were evaluated for effect on DI.

Results: Twenty-four patients had an abnormal baseline DI (>10). DI decreased from 14.9 ± 13.8 to 6.5 ± 9.3 after treatment (P < .001; 95% CI, 4.7-12.1). Twenty-eight scores decreased, 9 remained unchanged, and 6 increased. Change in DI was influenced by the presence of cardiac disease. Decreased DI persisted at 3-month follow-up. Voice Handicap Index-10, Glottal Function Index, Cough Severity Index, and Eating Assessment Tool-10 scores decreased and were correlated with change in DI.

Conclusion: Upper airway-related dyspnea is common in unilateral vocal fold paralysis, occurring in half of this cohort. Correcting glottic insufficiency may alleviate symptoms. Treatment decision making should consider postprocedural change in dyspnea, especially in patients for whom dyspnea is a motivating factor for seeking treatment.

Keywords: Dyspnea Index; framework surgery; injection augmentation; thyroplasty; vocal fold paralysis.

MeSH terms

  • Cough
  • Dyspnea / diagnosis
  • Dyspnea / etiology
  • Humans
  • Laryngoplasty* / methods
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis* / complications
  • Vocal Cord Paralysis* / surgery
  • Vocal Cords / surgery