Vocal cord paralysis

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Duke voice care specialists use the latest medical and surgical advances to treat vocal cord paralysis and strengthen your voice.

When the nerve responsible for vocal cord movement is damaged or injured, vocal paralysis may result. A variety of conditions can damage the nerve, including trauma, surgical injury, stroke, a virus, and voice box tumors. Paralysis can affect the ability of one or both of your vocal cords to open and close properly. Depending on the severity of the damage, and the extent of the paralysis, you may experience a breathy, weak or soft voice, as well as difficulty swallowing and breathing.  If both vocal cords are paralyzed, you will have difficulty breathing. The damage to the nerve, and its ability to recover, will impact the severity of your voice disorder. 

Vocal cord atrophy (weakened vocal cords) can happen as a normal part of aging, without vocal cord paralysis.  If you have aging vocal cords, you may notice that your voice has become weak, a condition known as vocal cord atrophy. Our comprehensive team of voice specialists uses the latest diagnostic technology to identify the severity of your vocal cord paralysis or vocal cord atrophy, and recommend the most appropriate combination of treatments and therapy to help you overcome any difficulties you experience with breathing, swallowing and speaking. We offer the best possible care to improve your vocal function as quickly as possible.

Choose Duke to treat your voice disorders because we offer:

  • Voice disorder specialists. We are one of the few voice centers in the Southeast, with a comprehensive team of voice experts. Your team includes ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physicians who are laryngologists, a specialty that requires advanced training in voice disorders.
  • Highly specialized speech pathologists. Our speech pathologists undergo specialized training to evaluate and treat patients with voice problems, swallowing disorders, and complex conditions such as voice restoration after throat cancer. Our team also includes trained singing voice specialists. They are experienced performers, singers, and singing teachers who understand the challenges of being a vocal professional. They bring empathy, clinical expertise, and an insider perspective to evaluating and improving your vocal health. They also provide specialized therapy to performers and singers.
  • Less invasive, less costly techniques. We use less invasive, less costly techniques, such as office-based based injections to “bulk up” a paralyzed vocal cord.   We also offer a variety of surgical options for vocal cord paralysis.
  • Coordinated care. We coordinate your care with the right specialists throughout our health system to ensure you receive the best therapies to minimize your symptoms, improve your voice, and optimize your recovery.
  • Treatment for all laryngeal conditions. Your voice box, or larynx, is responsible for your voice, your ability to swallow, and your airway or breathing passage. All of these functions may be impacted by vocal cord paralysis. Our doctors and speech pathologists treat voice, upper airway breathing problems and swallowing disorders.  
  • Better treatment decisions. Our ongoing research ensures you receive the best care for your vocal cord paralysis.



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