NYMC Faculty Publications

A Trigger Reduction Approach to Treatment of Paradoxical Vocal Fold Motion Disorder in the Pediatric Population

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Journal of Voice

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Second Department

Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology


OBJECTIVES: Paradoxical vocal fold motion disorder (PVFMD), or induced laryngeal obstruction (ILO), is a clinical phenomenon characterized by inappropriate adduction of the true vocal folds during inspiration. The resultant episodes of acute respiratory distress marked by exercise-induced cough, inspiratory stridor, throat tightness, and shortness of breath are often misattributed to asthma despite normal pulmonary function testing results. Although the pathogenesis of the disease remains unclear, the etiology is likely multifactorial with an inflammatory, neurological, and psychiatric basis. Our trigger reduction approach, consisting of a plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet to treat laryngopharyngeal reflux and sinus toilet, aims to dampen the peripheral neuronal hyperexcitability of the laryngopharyngeal tissues that is hypothesized to contribute to this disorder. The primary objective of the present study was to assess for therapeutic efficacy by analyzing pre- and post-treatment subjective scores using four validated indices: Voice Handicap Index (VHI), Reflux Symptom Index (RSI), Dyspnea Index (DI), and Cough Severity Index (CSI).

METHODS: A retrospective chart review of all patients age ≤18 years seen by the senior author between 2012 and 2018 who reported laryngeal spasm (J35.5) as a presenting complaint with no underlying organic diagnosis that otherwise explained the symptom identified the study cohort. Patients were excluded if another cause of their laryngeal spasm was identified or their medical records were incomplete.

RESULTS: Of 80 patients, 24 met the criteria. The most frequent presenting symptom was exercise-induced dyspnea (79%). Of the four measured indices, only a change in DI (P = 0.024) met statistical significance. Of 24 patients, 18 (75%) demonstrated a reduction in DI following our treatment protocol. Using reduction in DI as a continuous variable to assess response, the patient cohort experienced a 4.62 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.65-8.6) mean point reduction. Using the eight-point reduction (improvement) in DI as an accepted clinical response to treatment, 8 of 24 patients (33%) experienced a clinically relevant response. Changes in CSI (P = 0.059), RSI (P = 0.27), and VHI (P = 0.25) did not meet statistical significance. Of 24 patients, 8 (33%), 11 (46%), and 7 (29%) demonstrated a reduction in CSI, RSI, and VHI following our trigger reduction protocol, respectively. The patient cohort experienced a mean point reduction of 1.8 (95% CI: -0.1 to 3.7), 1.3 (95% CI: -1.1 to 3.7), and 1.3 (95% CI: -1.0 to 3.6) in CSI, RSI, and VHI, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Paradoxical vocal fold motion disorder is a multifactorial disease that poses diagnostic and therapeutic challenges. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to ensure patient safety, satisfaction, and reduction in health care costs, as mistreatment with asthma pharmacotherapy, intubation, or tracheostomy may exacerbate their dyspnea and lead to preventable hospitalizations. Our results demonstrate that a trigger reduction approach consisting of a plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet and sinus toilet alone may not achieve a clinically meaningful response in the majority of patients. However, given their favorable safety profile, our therapeutic regimen, along with respiratory retraining therapy, may provide symptom relief for selected patients who would otherwise continue to suffer.