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Anesthesia

Vocal cord injury

12/11/2007

Question:

Two years ago I had a kidney stone blasted while under anesthesia. It was almost a two hour procedure. After waking up my voice was slightly hoarse, and became gradually hoarser over time. I was also unable to project my voice. I went to many doctors and but none of them was able to give me a diagnosis, until I was finally told by an acquaintance (not a doctor) that I should go see a VOICE doctor, (gee, I wonder why none of the many doctors I went to see, ever recommended that to me before?) Anyway, I finally got my diagnosis, I had a dislocated vocal cord and the some nerve damage. Because it took a year to get a diagnosis and because there was nerve damage, they were not going to be able to just push it back into it right location. I did have one procedure done where the were able to inject some kind of paste into the vocal chord to plump it up. That did improve my speaking voice somewhat. I am now able to talk in a soft voice, but I still can`t project or speak in a room where there is any kind of background noise, which is all public places. My question to you is: Is this a recognized risk, that I must have signed my name to before the procedure, or do you think it could be an incapable anesthesiologist?

Answer:

Vocal cord injury is a recognized risk of tracheal (windpipe) intubation, which is a common, though not always essential, component of general anesthesia.

Mild laryngeal (voice box) injury is surprisingly frequent after tracheal intubation. Examination of the larynx will show bruising and/or swelling. More serious injury, such as vocal cord dislocation, is much less common. Temporary hoarseness is the main symptom of mild laryngeal injury and this almost always gets better without treatment.

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Response by:

Gareth S Kantor, MD Gareth S Kantor, MD
Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University