This information is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD).
Congenital laryngeal palsy is also known as congenital vocal cord paralysis. It represents 15%-20% of all cases of congenital anomalies of the larynx. It may affect one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) vocal cords. The cause of bilateral paralysis of the vocal cords is often unknown (idiopathic). In some cases, paralysis may be secondary to the immaturity of the nerve or muscle (neuromuscular) or due to central nervous system damage (including the Arnold-Chiari malformation, cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, myelomeningocele, spina bifida, hypoxia (lack of oxygen in the blood), or bleeding). Birth trauma that causes excessive tension in the neck can cause transient bilateral vocal cord paralysis that can last 6-9 months. Unilateral paralysis is usually idiopathic but can be secondary to problems with the vagus nerve or recurrent laryngeal nerve trauma. The signs and symptoms of bilateral vocal fold paralysis may include making a noise when breathing (inspiratory stridor) that worsens upon exercise, progressive obstruction of the respiratory airway, aspiration, recurrent chest infections, cyanosis, nose flaring and signs of cranial nerve deficits during the head and neck exam. Flexible endoscopy can be used to diagnose the condition. Treatment may include medication, surgery, and speech therapy.
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