The vocal cords are a human wind instrument relying on the combination of airflow and intricate muscle movements to tighten and relax the vocal cords in order for sound to emerge. Misuse or overuse of one’s voice can result in the formation of a vocal cord polyp, which is usually a very small fluid-filled blister-like growth or a nodule that is firmer, like a callus. Exposure to irritating fumes, including cigarette smoke as well as other factors such as the reflux of acid from one’s stomach, can increase the risk even further. Symptoms of vocal cord polyps and nodules commonly include chronic hoarseness, breathy quality to one’s voice, or a voice that fatigues with use. People with these conditions may also experience a sensation of having something caught in the throat or a tendency to clear the throat to no avail.
While these growths are not an indicator of cancer or precancerous tissue, they do require treatment. If they are not treated in a timely manner, it can lead to damage to the vocal cords, including scarring, which can become permanent.
Dr. Jerome Hester, ENT, takes a very mindful approach to vocal cord disorders. He believes that the least invasive treatment options should be used whenever possible and will work to develop a comprehensive treatment course that involves a combination of lifestyle changes, more mindful attention to the voice, speech therapy, and surgical removal if necessary.
Make Your Appointment with Dr. Hester Today
Call (650) 268-5133
Diagnosis Vocal Cord Polyps
During your examination, Dr. Hester will use several diagnostic techniques and imaging to identify vocal cord polyps. This includes:
- A thorough history of potential contributing factors, including the description of the actual dysfunction of the voice.
- A complete examination of the head and neck region.
- Listening to the patient makes a series of sounds.
- A fiber optic examination can accurately confirm the cause of the voice disturbance and confirm whether it is a polyp, a nodule, or any other tissue.
In some cases, this is enough to determine that speech therapy should be the first-line treatment. If the growths are relatively small and are caught early, vocal rest and speech therapy may be enough to resolve the issue.
However, in some cases, polyps and nodules are detected when they are so far along that conservative management is not enough. At this point, consideration of removal of the lesions via a surgical procedure call micro laryngoscopy may be necessary.
What Can I Expect During Microlaryngoscopy Surgery
The instruments used to visualize and remove vocal cord polyps and nodules are an operating microscope and a laryngoscope which hold the throat open during the procedure. This allows easy visualization of the lesion and magnification so that a very careful and precise removal can take place. The patient is placed under anesthesia during the procedure, which typically takes approximately 25 minutes. Once you are fully asleep, Dr. Hester will insert the laryngoscope down your throat and using the microscope, carefully examine the vocal cord region. If removal is indicated, then it is performed using either a laser or very precise instruments.
Preparing for Vocal Cord Surgery
The goal is to remove the lesion, but also to make sure that one treats the potential causes, so they do not re-form. In the days leading up to your surgery, Dr. Hester may ask you to: – Prepare your family and friends that you will need to limit speaking for at least 48 hours after the procedure. – Refrain from smoking – Avoid substances that irritate your vocal cords, such as alcohol, caffeine, or other food or drinks that tend to give you heartburn or reflux.
After the Procedure
After the procedure, you will be observed in the recovery room for approximately 1 hour and then allowed to go home. For the first 48 hours:
- You are to limit speaking during this time. Whispering, humming, and singing are also to be avoided since they cause undue pressure on the vocal cords.
- It is essential to drink plenty of water and soothing liquids, however avoiding drinks that dry out or irritate the throat such as caffeine, alcohol, or soda.
- A humidifier by your bedside is helpful while sleeping
- Do not smoke during this time as this is extremely irritating to the vocal cord and may damage the healing process.
For the First Few Weeks
Begin using your voice again. It is very important to use the voice in a normal fashion, i.e., do not strain the voice by whispering, talking loudly, or singing. Continue to drink plenty of fluids, avoid irritants, and use the humidifier at night.
While your vocal cords are coming back to health and you are relearning how to use your voice in healthy ways, it will take a full 6 to 8 weeks to recover.
Dr. Hester is available to address your concerns before and after the surgery and throughout your recovery. He will provide information about speech therapy and advice to keep your vocal cords healthy for the rest of your life. Contact our office to schedule an appointment to determine the correct treatment options for your vocal issues.