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Vocal Cord Paralysis

In April 2011, I had a total thyroidectomy because of papillary thyroid present on my thyroid and in a few lymph nodes. As of today, the cancer hasn't tried to come back so I should count my blessings for that, but during the surgery, my vocal nerve was severed. The doctor realized his error and attempted to fix the nerve before sewing me back up, but unfortunately the nerve never healed.

So I believe it is my left vocal cord that is near 100% paralyzed while my other one works perfectly. The problem with the left vocal cord is that I feel as if it's too close to the right one. I know most people with one vocal cord paralyzed have issues talking because their voice is not strong enough, but my voice is fine--it goes out quicker if I'm screaming, but it's just about as strong as it used to be. The issue is that I feel like someone constantly has their thumb on my neck, pushing into the vocal nerve. And don't even get me started when I get some sort of cold and my throat gets a bit swollen--feels like the vocal cord is going to sit on my airway and choke me out.

I'm just curious if anyone else has this issue? My lung capacity has dropped since the surgery as well, which I guess is to be expected if one of the vocal nerves isn't working properly. It's also annoying because with the breathing, I can't breathe in and out as seamlessly as I once did--when I'm speaking, I have to stop, take a deep breath, and continue speaking. Most people would just suck in a quick breath and continue speaking like normal.

My surgeon and my ENT both looked at my throat and basically said there's really nothing they can do at this point. I mentioned nerve innervation (taking a healthy nerve from somewhere like your nose and putting it into your neck) but the ENT said that was tough and wasn't going to work. I mentioned about how they're trying tiny pacemakers in the neck to stimulate the nerves that way, but the ENT said that was very experimental.

Has anyone else found any other suggestions? Like I said, my vocal cord is paralyzed but feels like it's pushing outward, so injecting the vocal cord with some sort of material is going to make it feel like I can't breathe at all I would think.
3 Responses
Avatar universal
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Hello and hope you are doing well.

Understand your predicament. Usually with paralysis of a one vocal cord, the other cord tries to adjust or compensate to produce speech or voice. Interventions or therapies are focused on bringing this  cord closer to the midline, to help the healthy vocal cord to coordinate for voice production. As you have no problems with speech, the intervention therapies may not help. And as for the decreased lung function tests it may not be related to the vocal cord palsy. Based on the findings a diagnosis of obstructive and restrictive lung  diseases can be made. So, discuss with your doctor about the cause for the decreased lung function tests.

Hope this helped and do keep us posted.
Avatar universal
I've been to a pulmonologist, but just as a follow up in case there is something wrong with my lungs. I had a very slight case of asthma when I was a child, and I don't know if the paralyzed vocal cord just makes that worse or not. My dr put me on singulair and that has helped me breathe a lot better than before.

I did have a lung function test done--where you blow really hard into that device--and instead of my chart having a curve to it, it basically looks like a plateau...the line jumps up but then almost goes straight across the chart. I guess I'll have to probe deeper into any other issues with my lungs.

Thanks for the feedback!
Avatar universal
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Hello and hope you are doing well.

Singulair (montelukast) is used to prevent asthma attacks in adults and children as young as 12 months old. So, if you have improvement with singulair, then it is most likely that your symptoms of breathlessness could be due to Asthma. With respect to your spirometry values, what was the diagnosis made? Steroid and Asthalin inhalers will help with breathlessness due to Asthma. So, discuss with your doctor.

Hope this helped and do keep us posted.
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