The vocal cords, also known as vocal folds, play a vital role in our ability to produce sound and communicate. They are twin infoldings of mucous membrane located in the larynx (voice box) that vibrate to produce sound. However, these cords can develop benign lesions due to various reasons, affecting voice quality and even causing pain. The surgical removal of such lesions becomes essential in certain circumstances.
What Are Vocal Cord Lesions?
Vocal cord lesions are non-cancerous growths that can appear for multiple reasons. They typically fall into three primary categories:
- Nodules: Often called “singer’s nodules,” these are small, benign bumps that form on both vocal cords due to repetitive misuse or overuse.
- Polyps: These are soft, fluid-filled bulges that can form on one or both vocal cords. They are often a result of vocal strain, chronic cough, or other irritants.
- Cysts: These are fluid or mucus-filled sacs that can form beneath the surface of the vocal cord.
Signs and Symptoms
Individuals with vocal cord lesions might experience:
- Hoarseness or a raspy voice
- A feeling of a lump in the throat
- Vocal fatigue
- Pain from ear to ear
- Decreased pitch range
Causes of Vocal Cord Lesions
Some common factors contribute to the development of these lesions:
- Overuse or misuse of the voice (e.g., yelling, singing)
- Persistent coughing or throat clearing
- Smoking or exposure to irritants
- Acid reflux
- Trauma to the voice box
What to Expect During The Procedure
The process for removing vocal cord lesions, known as microlaryngoscopy, is meticulous and requires precision:
- Anesthesia: The procedure is generally performed under general anesthesia.
- Accessing the Vocal Cords: A laryngoscope is inserted through the mouth to provide a clear view of the vocal cords.
- Lesion Removal: Using specialized micro-instruments, the surgeon delicately removes the lesion. The procedure ensures minimal damage to the surrounding vocal cord tissue to preserve voice quality.
- Closing The Wound: Since the procedure is minimally invasive and performed through the mouth, there are no external incisions to close.
Recovery and Post-Operative Care
Post-surgical care is crucial for optimal healing and restoration of voice quality:
- Voice Rest: Complete vocal rest is usually advised for a few days post-surgery, ensuring the vocal cords heal without strain.
- Hydration: Drinking plenty of water helps keep the throat moist and aids recovery.
- Avoid Irritants: Smoking, alcohol, and spicy foods should be avoided as they can irritate the healing vocal cords.
- Follow-Up: Regular check-ups post-surgery ensure the vocal cords are healing well, and no complications arise.
Potential Risks and Complications
While vocal cord lesion removal is typically safe, potential complications can arise:
- Voice Changes: Some patients might notice a change in their voice post-surgery.
- Incomplete Removal: There’s a possibility that not all of the lesion is removed, requiring further treatment.
- Scarring: Any surgery carries the risk of scarring, which, in the case of vocal cords, can affect voice quality.
- Reaction to Anesthesia: As with any surgery involving general anesthesia, there’s a risk of adverse reactions.
Overview of Vocal Cord Lesions
Vocal cord lesions, while benign, can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. Removal of these lesions through microlaryngoscopy offers a promising solution, restoring the voice and relieving discomfort. However, understanding the procedure, potential risks, and the importance of post-operative care is important before making a decision. Collaborative discussions with an experienced otolaryngologist ensure patients are well-informed, leading to optimal outcomes and a quick return to daily activities.