Outcomes of Vocal Fold Immobility After Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery

*Corresponding author: Anatoli F. Karas, Aniruddha Patki, Marisa A. Ryan, Patrick A. Upchurch, Rose J. Eapen and Eileen M. Raynor*

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retrospective study


Cardiovascular surgery is increasingly performed in children for congenital malformations of the heart and great vessels. Observed as vocal fold immobility, recurrent laryngeal nerve injury is a well-described complication. As overall outcomes improve and patients live longer, the sequelae of vocal fold immobility amplify insignificance. Families are often unaware of the longterm issues related to vocal fold immobility especially with regard to need for alternative alimentation routes. We report on the incidence of use of feeding tubes, the timing of vocal fold function return and need for additional aerodigestive interventions.
We reviewed 65 patients <2-years who underwent cardiovascular surgery at a tertiary center from 2008-2013 and were diagnosed post-operatively with vocal fold immobility by fiberoptic examination.
Patent ductus arteriosus and hypoplastic left heart syndrome were the most common of the cardiovascular anomalies included. The majority (92%) had unilateral left immobility. Recovery of motion was observed in 29% ranging from 1-month to 3-years. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome had a significant negative correlation with recovery. Forty-six percent required gastrostomy tube placement either to supplement their oral intake or to completely meet their nutritional needs. Forty-eight percent required subsequent aerodigestive surgery including direct laryngoscopy/bronchoscopy (22%), tracheostomy (8%) and vocal fold injection (5%).
Counseling of families and primary care providers regarding the impact of pediatric vocal fold immobility after cardiac surgery should include the high potential requirement for supplemental alimentation as well as the need for feeding and speech therapy. Longitudinal otolaryngology and speech pathology care is imperative with vocal fold immobility since the majority of these patients do not experience functional recovery and may require further interventions over time.
Vocal cord paralysis; Pediatric cardiovascular surgery; Pediatric aerodigestive disorders; Voice; Swallow; Gastrostomy.