Etiology and time to presentation of unilateral vocal fold paralysis

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62 Scopus citations


Objective. To determine the etiology, laterality, and time to presentation of unilateral vocal fold paralysis (UVFP) at a tertiary care institution over 10 years. Study Design. Case series with chart review. Setting. Academic medical center. Subjects and Methods. All patients seen between 2002 and 2012 by the Department of Otolaryngology at the Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM), with a diagnosis of unilateral vocal fold paralysis, were included. Medical records were reviewed for symptom onset date, presentation date(s), and etiology of UVFP. Results. Of the patients, 938 met inclusion criteria and were included. In total, 522 patients (55.6%) had UVFP due to surgery; 158 (16.8%) were associated with thyroid/parathyroid surgery, while 364 (38.8%) were due to nonthyroid surgery. Of the patients, 416 (44.4%) had nonsurgical etiologies, 124 (13.2%) had idiopathic UVFP, and 621 (66.2%) had left-sided UVFP. The diagnosis was more common on the left side in cases of intrathoracic surgeries and malignancies, as expected, but also in idiopathic, carotid endarterectomy, intubation, and skull base tumors. In total, 9.8% of patients presented first to an outside otolaryngologist at a median time of 2.1 months after onset, but these patients presented to WUSM at a median time of 9.5 months. Overall, 70.6% of patients presented to a WUSM otolaryngologist within 3 months of onset. Conclusion. Iatrogenic injury remains the most common cause of UVFP. Thyroidectomy remains the leading cause of surgeryrelated UVFP. Patients are s typically seen within 3-4 months of onset; however, a significant delay exists for those referred to WUSM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-293
Number of pages8
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • etiology
  • paralysis
  • vocal cord


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