Research Article|Articles in Press

Is Thyrohyoid Space Palpation a Reliable and Useful Clinical Tool Within Diagnostic Protocol for Voice Disorders?



      Palpation of the extrinsic laryngeal muscles is a common part of examination performed by otolaryngologists and speech-language pathologists on individuals presenting with voice complaints, thought to aid in diagnosis and treatment planning. While research has identified a significant relationship between thyrohyoid tension and hyperfunctional voice disorders, we are not aware of any studies exploring correlations between thyrohyoid posture during palpation and the full spectrum of voice disorders. This study aims to identify whether patterns in thyrohyoid posture at rest and during phonation can be related to stroboscopic findings and voice disorder diagnoses.


      A multidisciplinary team of three laryngologists and three speech-language pathologists participated in data collection during 47 new patient visits for voice complaints. Each patient underwent neck palpation and evaluation of thyrohyoid space at rest and during phonation by two independent raters. Clinicians then used stroboscopy to rate glottal closure and supraglottic activity as part of determining primary diagnosis.


      Strong inter-rater agreement was found for ratings of thyrohyoid space posture both at rest (κ = 0.93) and during phonation (κ = 0.80). Findings revealed no significant correlations between patterns of thyrohyoid posture and laryngoscopic findings or primary diagnoses.


      Findings suggest that the presented method of laryngeal palpation is a reliable measure for assessing thyrohyoid posture at rest and during phonation. Lack of significant correlation between palpation ratings and other collected measures suggests that this method of palpation is not a useful tool for predicting laryngoscopic findings or voice diagnoses. Laryngeal palpation may still be useful in predicting extrinsic laryngeal muscle tension and guiding treatment planning; however, further research exploring the validity of laryngeal palpation as a measure of extrinsic laryngeal muscle tension is needed, as well as studies that include patient-reported measures and repeated measurements of thyrohyoid posture over time to explore whether thyrohyoid posture is impacted by other factors.

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