Vocal cord paralysis

Vocal cord paralysis/palsy (VCP) can cause laryngeal dysfunction ranging from slight hoarseness to life-threatening airway obstruction.

Left vocal cord paralysis is twice as common than right vocal cord paralysis, and unilateral vocal cord paralysis much less common than bilateral vocal cord paralysis 7. Damage the nerve supply of the vocal cords can occur in two ways: 

  • recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis (most common)
    • pathology affecting the vagus nerve (from which the recurrent laryngeal nerve branches off) should also be considered
  • superior laryngeal nerve paralysis (much less common )

The imaging features of vocal cord paralysis include:

When vocal cord paralysis has been diagnosed, a cause should be actively sought along the course of the recurrent laryngeal nerve from origin in the brainstem, through the neck, and should always include the superior mediastinum. 

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Article information

rID: 21747
System: Head & Neck
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Vocal cord palsy
  • Paralysis of the vocal cord
  • Vocal cord paralysis (VCP)
  • Paralysis of the vocal cords

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Cases and figures

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    Case 1: axial
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    Case 1: coronal
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    Case 2: due aortic arch pseudoaneurysm
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    Case 4: due to papillary thyroid carcinoma
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