Research Article| Volume 37, ISSUE 2, P289.e15-289.e21, March 2023

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Computed Tomography Measurements in Assessment of Idiopathic Vocal Fold Paralysis

Published:December 22, 2020DOI:



      Our study aimed to both identify the incidence and clinical presentation of patients presenting with idiopathic vocal fold paralysis (IVFP). Secondarily we aimed to assess the radiographic findings of computed tomography (CT) studies along the course of the vagus and recurrent laryngeal nerves (RLN), specifically measuring for potential areas of compression at the skull base and mediastinum. We hypothesized that a proportion of patients diagnosed with IVFP would have significant differences in measurements when compared to age-gender matched controls on CT imaging.

      Study Design

      Institutional review board approved retrospective cohort study


      We assessed patients presenting to a tertiary voice care center between 2003 and 2019 with diagnosis of vocal fold paralysis. Data collected includes demographics, clinical exam findings, and CT measurements including dimensions at bilateral jugular foramen, aortopulmonary (AP) window and surrounding vascular structures. Statistical analysis was then performed using Pearson χ2, and Mann Whitney U tests to determine differences variables of interest.


      A total of 606 patients were reviewed. Of these patients 60 (9.9%) patients were determined to have IVFP. Left-sided VFP was seen more commonly in 78.3% (N = 47) of idiopathic patients. Our IVFP group had an overall higher incidence of cardiovascular disease [OR = 3.378, 95%CI 1.907-5.941, P < 0.001] compared to those with identified causes for paralysis. Specifically, IVFP patients showed a higher incidence of combined cardiovascular co-morbidities (P < 0.001), mitral valve stenosis (P = 0.007), pulmonary hypertension (P < 0.0001) and congestive heart failure (P < 0.001). When evaluating CT imaging, the AP window was mentioned in only 2 (3.3%) of our idiopathic patients CT reports. The IVFP cohort had a lower median AP window volume (P = 0.020) when compared to age-gender matched controls. This significantly smaller AP window volume was also seen when only left sided IVFP compared to both right-sided paralysis (P < 0.001) and age matched control patients (P < 0.001).


      The significance of cardiovascular comorbidities combined with findings of statistically narrowed AP window may help provide an explanation of a subset of patients diagnosed with IVFP.


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