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Vocal Cord Dysfunction

What is it?
During inspiration, particularly deep inspiration, the vocal folds open widely so that an appropriate breath can be made.  Paradoxical vocal fold motion, sometimes called vocal cord dysfunction (VCD), is a condition where the vocal folds instead close during inspiration.  This abnormal movement is often triggered by exercise or certain smells and is commonly seen in young female athletes.  Because patients breath againsts a more narrow breathing passageway, patients notice dyspnea, increased work of breathing, and stridor that typcially passes on its own after several minutes.


How is it treated?
Paradoxical vocal fold motion often leads to a fairly extensive evaluation to ensure no lung, heart, or other lower airway problems.  Once these other areas have been ruled out and evaluation by a laryngeal specialist has been obtained, patients are treated by speech pathologists with special breathing techniques.  These techniques help to retrain patients to appropriately open the larynx during breathing so as to avoid abnormal breathing events.  It is also important to optimize the health of the larynx, as an irritated larynx will be more likely to have problems with PVFM.  Thus, often patients are maximized on antireflux regimens, and allergies are controlled to improve the overall health of the larynx.

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