Reanimation of the paralyzed human larynx with an implantable electrical stimulation device

David L. Zealear, Cheryl R. Billante, Mark S. Courey, James L. Netterville, Randal C. Paniello, Ira Sanders, Garrett D. Herzon, George S. Goding, Wolf Mann, Hasse Ejnell, Alfons M.M.C. Habets, Roy Testerman, Paul Van de Heyning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Objectives/Hypothesis: Electrical stimulation of the posterior cricoarytenoid muscle, when paced with inspiration, offers a physiological approach to restore ventilation in bilateral laryngeal paralysis without any of the disadvantages associated with conventional treatment. Study Design: A prospective study of six patients. Methods: The patients were successfully implanted with an Itrel II stimulator (Medtronic, Inc). In postoperative sessions, stimulated vocal fold abduction, patient ventilation, and voice were assessed and compared with preoperative values. Results: The optimum stimulus paradigm was a 1- to 2-second train of 1-miltisecond pulses delivered at a frequency of 30 to 40 Hz and amplitude of 2 to 7 V. Posterior cricoarytenoid stimulation produced a large dynamic abduction (3.5-7 mm) in three patients and moderate abduction (3 mm) in a fourth patient. The fifth patient showed a large but delayed response of 4 mm to stimulation with some lateralization of the vocal fold. In the sixth patient, stimulated abduction was noted on device implantation but was lost postoperatively. All five patients with stimulated abduction postoperatively met the ventilatory criteria for decannulation, and three patients subsequently had decannulation. Long-term stimulation of the posterior cricoarytenoid muscle had no appreciable effect on voice quality. Conclusions: Electrical stimulation of the posterior cricoarytenoid muscle shows potential as an improved therapy for bilateral vocal fold paralysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1149-1156
Number of pages8
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2003


  • Bilateral vocal fold paralysis
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Laryngeal pacing
  • Posterior cricoarytenoid muscle
  • Ventilation
  • Voice


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