Tapia syndrome

Last revised by Candace Makeda Moore on 10 Dec 2020

Tapia syndrome , also called matador's disease, is a rare syndrome that is characterized by unilateral paralysis of the tongue and vocal cords. Although the problem typically occurs after anesthetic airway management or manipulation, it can be due to central causes in rare cases 11.  The syndrome often presents as a feeling of stroke 9,10 that occurs due to simultaneous extra cranial paralysis of recurrent laryngeal branch of vagus nerve and hypoglossal nerve 1,2,5.

The classic clinical scenario of Tapia syndrome is 4-6​:

  • hoarseness of voice
  • dysphagia
  • tongue movement difficulty
  • swallowing difficulty

The following mechanisms have been proposed in the pathogenesis of peripheral iatrogenic Tapia syndrome:

  • inaccurate usage of laryngoscope
  • intensified neck extension during anesthesia manipulation
  • prolong tension over trachea due to overinflation of endotracheal cuff
  • extensive compression from throat packs over trachea 4,5,7.

This syndrome is eponymously named after the Spanish physician Antonio Garcia Tapia who first described it in a bullfighter, or "matador" wounded by a bullhorn in the neck. The syndrome has therefore sometimes been referred to as matador's disease.

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