Episodic paroxysmal laryngospasm: voice and pulmonary function assessment and management

J Voice. 1996 Mar;10(1):93-105. doi: 10.1016/s0892-1997(96)80022-1.


Episodic paroxysmal laryngospasm (EPL) is a sign of laryngeal dysfunction, often without a specific organic etiology, which can masquerade as asthma, vocal fold paralysis, or a functional voice disorder. The intermittent respiratory distress of EPL may precipitate an apparent upper airway obstructive emergency, resulting in unnecessary endotracheal intubation, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or tracheostomy. During 27 months, seven women and three men, age 30-76 years, were assessed by a high diagnostic index of suspicion, an intensive history including psychosocial factors, physical examination of the airways, provocative asthma testing, and swallowing studies. Videolaryngoscopy, stroboscopy, and pulmonary flow-volume loop testing were definitive. The classic appearance was paradoxic inspiratory adduction of the anterior vocal folds with a posterior diamond-shaped glottic gap. During an attack of stridor or wheezing, attenuation of the inspiratory flow rate as depicted by the flow-volume loop suggested partial extrathoracic upper airway obstruction. Swallowing evaluation by videolaryngoscopy and videosophagography may uncover gastroesophageal reflux disease. Hallmarks of management include patient and family education by observation of laryngoscopic videos, a specific speech therapy program, psychotherapy, and medical treatment of associated disorders. Electromyography may become a valuable future adjunct. Unlike laryngeal dystonia, patients with EPL do not benefit from botulinum toxin type A.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Airway Obstruction / etiology
  • Airway Obstruction / surgery
  • Botulinum Toxins / therapeutic use
  • Cholinergic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal
  • Laryngismus / complications
  • Laryngismus / diagnosis*
  • Laryngismus / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Periodicity
  • Respiration Disorders / etiology
  • Respiration Disorders / surgery
  • Respiratory Function Tests*
  • Voice Disorders / diagnosis
  • Voice Disorders / etiology
  • Voice Quality*


  • Cholinergic Agents
  • Botulinum Toxins