Those who cannot speak are being given new hope. Six percent of the US population has a voice disorder that, unfortunately, often leads to the inability to speak. Usually arising from vocal cord damage, Harvard and MIT researchers have been tirelessly working on a solution to this vocal cord problem.
Thanks to modern gel technology, they might have found one! A new synthetic gel material can be injected into scarred or damaged vocal cords to help restore their function. By looking at the vocal cords from almost a mechanical standpoint, scientists developed a fix for the scar tissue — rather than a new way to remove it.
The flexible gel material can adapt to a wide range of human vocal cords and helps restore the cords’ ability to vibrate, thus loosening up the stiffened, scarred vocal cords enough to (hopefully) restore voice. Although, if approved, this material would need to be re-injected every six months or so – as it does break down over time – it is a very promising solution to a problem that has long been “silenced.”
Dr. Michelle Yagoda is not only an expert ENT and facial plastic surgeon, but she is a voice specialist as well. If you find you are having problems with your voice, make sure to see the proper doctor: Voice issues have many causes, and their treatments depend on the proper diagnoses.
Answer: Vocal cord surgery should be done one place and one place only: in a hospital! There are a few reasons for this, and they are all very important.
When you undergo a procedure on your vocal cords at the hospital, you will be under general anesthesia. This is true for any vocal cord surgery/procedure, including biopsies, laser surgery and the removal of nodules and polyps. All of these conditions cause voice problems of varying degrees, and Dr Yagoda will let you know when surgery is necessary.
During general anesthesia for voice box surgery, a breathing tube will be inserted in your throat. This breathing tube is very, very important: Not only does it help you breathe, but it protects your airway! Otherwise, when the vocal cords are “touched,” they will spontaneously close. This happens because the body assumes that if something touches the vocal cords, it is likely to be heading downward to your lungs. Vocal cord closure is the body’s automatic mechanism to protect your lungs. A breathing tube must be in place to keep the airway open so that oxygen can reach your heart and brain.
In addition, vocal cord surgery should be done in the hospital for another reason. Hospitals have the necessary equipment for vocal cord microsurgery. This includes a surgical microscope that will magnify the vocal cords 400x. In addition, lasers can assist the surgeon is performing precise and bloodless procedures.
Now, true or false: Must vocal endoscopies be done in the hospital as well?
False! Vocal endoscopies can be done very safely and routinely in a voice specialist’s office. Endoscopies are simple procedures that do not require any manipulation or instrumentation of the vocal cords. In a matter of minutes — and while you are seated and awake — your vocal cords can be visualized. This allows the doctor to diagnose the vocal disorder. But, remember, any procedure requiring a biopsy, laser or excision must be done in the operating room under general anesthesia.