Dysphagia Outcomes Following Surgical Management of Unilateral Vocal Fold Immobility: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2023 Jan;168(1):14-25. doi: 10.1177/01945998211072832.


Objective: To assess dysphagia outcomes following surgical management of unilateral vocal fold immobility (UVFI) in adults.

Data sources: Ovid MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science, and Cochrane Central.

Review methods: A structured literature search was utilized, and a 2-researcher systematic review was performed following PRISMA guidelines. Extractable data were pooled, and a quantitative analysis was performed with a random effects model to analyze treatment outcome and complications by procedure.

Results: A total of 416 publications were screened and 26 met inclusion criteria. Subjects encompassed 959 patients with UVFI who underwent 916 procedures (n = 547, injection laryngoplasty; n = 357, laryngeal framework surgery; n = 12, laryngeal reinnervation). An overall 615 were identified as having dysphagia as a result of UVFI and had individually extractable outcome data, which served as the basis for a quantitative meta-analysis. In general, dysphagia outcomes after all medialization procedures were strongly positive. Quantitative analysis demonstrated a success rate estimate of 90% (95% CI, 75%-100%) for injection laryngoplasty and 92% (95% CI, 87%-97%) for laryngeal framework surgery. The estimated complication rate was 7% (95% CI, 2%-13%) for injection laryngoplasty and 15% (95% CI, 10%-20%) for laryngeal framework surgery, with minor complications predominating. Although laryngeal reinnervation could not be assessed quantitatively due to low numbers, qualitative analysis demonstrated consistent benefit for a majority of patients for each procedure.

Conclusion: Dysphagia due to UVFI can be improved in a majority of patients with surgical procedures intended to improve glottal competence, with a low risk of complications. Injection laryngoplasty and laryngeal framework surgery appear to be efficacious and safe, and laryngeal reinnervation may be a promising new option for select patients.

Keywords: adult; aspiration; dysphagia; injection laryngoplasty; laryngeal reinnervation; medialization; outcomes; paralysis; surgical management; systematic review; thyroplasty; unilateral vocal fold immobility.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Deglutition Disorders* / etiology
  • Deglutition Disorders* / surgery
  • Glottis
  • Humans
  • Laryngoplasty*
  • Larynx*
  • Vocal Cords