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Vocal Cord Dysfunction – Diagnosis

April 29, 2021


A standard series of tests are used to diagnose vocal cord dysfunction. The first part of any examination is a thorough case history relating to the onset, severity, and previous treatments of the problem. Next is a trans nasal flexible video laryngoscopy, which is an examination of the vocal folds or larynx or voice box. In this exam, the patient is given specific vocal and breathing tasks to perform while the larynx and vocal folds in the entire exam is being recorded in order to study the movements of the vocal folds during these tasks. Another way to see what's going on with the vocal folds is to do a pulmonary function test called spirometry. In spirometry - typically done by a lung doctor (a pulmonologist) or an allergist - what you do is you breathe into a little device and you're looking for a tracing. The tracing often looks like an oval or an egg, and because the vocal folds are closing, you get flattening of what we call the inspiratory curve. So this egg (when you look at this tracing in someone with vocal cord dysfunction) the bottom part of it is sort of sliced off, so it flattens out. All you get is the top half of the oval. The reason you get flattening of the inspiratory curve is that the vocal folds are closing. The spirometry tests can help you, and then an actual visualization of what happens to the vocal folds during quiet breathing or following certain vocal tasks, cinches the diagnosis.

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