Coblation Cordotomy for the Management of Bilateral Vocal Fold Immobility

Published:October 18, 2022DOI:



      Bilateral vocal fold immobility (BVFI) has an impact on both the voice and breathing. Many procedures have been developed to manage BVFI including the use of a coblator to perform a unilateral posterior cordotomy. This study evaluated the use of unilateral coblator cordotomy for BVFI.

      Study Design

      Retrospective chart review.


      Ninety-four patients having undergone coblation cordotomies for BVFI performed by surgeons at two different institutions. Parameters evaluated were etiology of BVFI, prior tracheotomy, the number of revision procedures, postoperative decannulations, breathing outcomes as measured by Dyspnea Index, and voice outcomes as measured by the Voice Handicap Index.


      The main causes of immobility were thyroidectomy and prolonged endotracheal intubation. Twenty-one procedures were performed in patients who had a tracheotomy already in place, two required concurrent tracheotomy with cordotomy, and two underwent tracheotomy some time after cordotomy. The mean follow up was 16 months (1-38 months). Of the 25 patients who had a tracheotomy tube placed before or during the course of their care, we were unable to decannulate four of them after initial or revision cordotomy. Twenty of our 94 patients required a secondary revision unilateral cordotomy, usually on the previously un-operated vocal fold. This was more common in bilateral fixation than in paralysis. In 44 patients where Voice Handicap Index data was known both pre- and postoperatively, the median VHI scores improved from 62.2 to 37.4, while the VHI worsened in only four patients. Eight patients had a Dyspnea index performed both pre- and post-operatively and the median score dropped from 18.3 to 12.5.


      Coblation cordotomy is a reasonable option for vocal fold lateralization in BVFI. In our study, this method allowed for decannulation in 21 of 25 patients who had a tracheotomy. The initial coblator cordotomy was sufficient for the majority of patients, with 22% (20/94) requiring a revision procedure. Interestingly, our study also showed promising voice outcomes with improvements in VHI in all but four patients.

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