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Vocal fold paresis – a debilitating and underdiagnosed condition

  • G Harris (a1), C O'Meara (a1), C Pemberton (a1), J Rough (a2), P Darveniza (a3), S Tisch (a3) and I Cole (a1)...
Abstract Objectives:

To review the clinical signs of vocal fold paresis on laryngeal videostroboscopy, to quantify its impact on patients’ quality of life and to confirm the benefit of laryngeal electromyography in its diagnosis.


Twenty-nine vocal fold paresis patients were referred for laryngeal electromyography. Voice Handicap Index 10 results were compared to 43 patients diagnosed with vocal fold paralysis. Laryngeal videostroboscopy analysis was conducted to determine side of paresis.


Blinded laryngeal electromyography confirmed vocal fold paresis in 92.6 per cent of cases, with vocal fold lag being the most common diagnostic sign. The laryngology team accurately predicted side of paresis in 76 per cent of cases. Total Voice Handicap Index 10 responses were not significantly different between vocal fold paralysis and vocal fold paresis groups (26.08 ± 0.21 and 22.93 ± 0.17, respectively).


Vocal fold paresis has a significant impact on quality of life. This study shows that laryngeal electromyography is an important diagnostic tool. Patients with persisting dysphonia and apparently normal vocal fold movement, who fail to respond to appropriate speech therapy, should be investigated for a diagnosis of vocal fold paresis.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Dr Georgina Harris, PO BOX 4024, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW 2065, Australia E-mail:
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Presented at the Australian Society of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Annual Scientific Meeting, 7–10 March 2015, Sydney, and at the 2nd Australasian and Asia Pacific Laryngology Conference, 7–9 November 2014, Hobart, Australia.

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The Journal of Laryngology & Otology
  • ISSN: 0022-2151
  • EISSN: 1748-5460
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-laryngology-and-otology
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