By Itzhak Brook, MD, MSc

The Laryngectomee Guide has been made available on www.entnet.org for patients and physicians by author and laryngectomee, Itzhak Brook, MD, MSc. The guide provides practical information to assist laryngectomees and their caregivers in dealing with medical, dental and psychological challenges. Topics covered include the diagnosis and treatment of laryngeal cancer, side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, methods of speaking after laryngectomy, and how to care for the airway, stoma, heat and moisture exchange filter, and voice prosthesis. Also addressed are eating and swallowing issues, preventive care, use of CT and PET scans, emergency situations, anesthesia and traveling as a laryngectomee.

Itzhak Brook, MD, MSc, is an Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He earned his medical degree and completed his residency at Hebrew University, Hadassah School of Medicine, in Jerusalem and obtained his master’s degree in pediatrics from the University of Tel Aviv in Israel. He completed a fellowship in adult and pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California, Los Angeles. For 27 years, he served in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Navy. Dr. Brook is the past chairman of the Anti-infective Drug Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration. He has done extensive research on anaerobic and respiratory tract infections, anthrax and infections following exposure to ionizing radiation. Dr. Brook was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2006. Two years later he had his larynx removed and currently speaks with a tracheoesophageal prosthesis. He is also the author of My Voice, a Physician’s Personal Experience with Throat Cancer.

DISCLAIMER: The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and its Foundation (AAO-HNS/F) is providing The Laryngectomee Guide (the Guide) for educational and informational purposes only. The guide is written from a patient’s perspective, not by an otolaryngologist, and it is not intended to provide medical or legal advice and should not be treated as such. AAO-HNS/F provides no warranty or guaranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the information provided in the Guide and is in no way responsible for its content. The book is being provided for free, and AAO-HNS/F is receiving no remuneration for making this book available. Patients should consult with their personal physicians before making any decisions about their medical care relating to laryngeal cancer or their pre- or post-surgical activities. Physicians and other providers reading this book should make independent, informed decisions about the care of their patients based on the individual facts and circumstances of each case.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious health condition characterized by a repetitive stopping or slowing of breathing that can occur hundreds of times during the night. This often leads to poor quality sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. Risks of untreated sleep apnea include high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and motor vehicle accidents. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans have at least mild OSA.

A variety of surgical and non-surgical options are available for the treatment of snoring and sleep apnea. Medical options include positive pressure (i.e. CPAP), oral appliances and weight loss. Many of these treatment options depend on regular, long-term adherence to be effective. In patients having difficulty with other treatments, surgical procedures for the nose and throat can be a beneficial alternative. Surgical therapy can also be effective when used as an adjunct to improve tolerance and success with CPAP or an oral appliance.

Surgical Treatments

Nose

Increased nasal congestion has been shown to cause or contribute to snoring, disrupted sleep and even sleep apnea. It is also a leading cause of failure of medical treatments for OSA, such as CPAP or an oral appliance. Nasal obstruction may result from many causes including allergies, polyps, deviated septum, enlarged adenoids and enlarged turbinates.

Medical treatment options, such as a nasal steroid spray or allergy management, may be helpful in some patients. Structural problems, such as a deviated septum, often benefit from surgical treatment. One surgical option, known as radiofrequency turbinate reduction (RFTR), can be performed in the office under local anesthesia. RFTR uses radiofrequency to shrink swollen tissues in each side of the nose.

Upper throat (palate, tonsils, uvula)

In many patients with OSA, airway narrowing and collapse occurs in the area of the soft palate (back part of the roof of the mouth), tonsils and uvula. The specific type and combination of procedures that are indicated depend on each individual’s unique anatomy and pattern of collapse. Therefore the procedure selection and surgical plan must be customized to each patient. In general, these procedures aim to enlarge and stabilize the airway in the upper portion of the throat.

The surgery is performed in an operating room under general anesthesia, either as an outpatient or with an overnight hospital stay. The recovery varies depending on the patient and the specific procedures performed. Many patients return to school/work in approximately one week and return to normal diet and activity at two weeks. Throat discomfort, particularly with swallowing, is common in the first two weeks and usually managed with medications for pain and inflammation. Risks include bleeding, swallowing problems and anesthesia complications, although serious complications are uncommon.

The tonsils and adenoids may be the sole cause of snoring and sleep apnea in some patients, particularly children. In children and in select adults with OSA and enlarged tonsils/adenoids, tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy alone can provide excellent resolution of snoring, sleep apnea and associated symptoms.

Lower throat (back of tongue and upper part of voice box)

The lower part of the throat is also a common area of airway collapse in patients with OSA. The tongue base may be larger than normal, especially in obese patients, contributing to blockage in this area. The tongue may also collapse backward during sleep as the muscles of the throat relax, particularly when some patients sleep on their back. The epiglottis, or upper part of the voice box, may also collapse and contribute to airway obstruction.

Multiple procedures are available to reduce the size of the tongue base or advance it forward out of the airway. Other procedures aim to advance and stabilize the hyoid bone which is connected to the tongue base and epiglottis. A more recent technology involves implantation of a pacemaker for the tongue (“hypoglossal nerve stimulator”) which stimulates forward contraction of the tongue during sleep. As with palatal surgery, the most appropriate type of procedure varies from one individual to another, and is primarily determined by each patient’s anatomy and pattern of obstruction.

The procedures are done under general anesthesia, often with overnight hospital observation. Recovery and risks vary depending on the procedure(s) performed, but are generally similar to procedures in the upper throat.

Skeletal procedures

For the most part, the above procedures involve surgical enlargement and stabilization inside the airway. For some patients, particularly those with developmental or structural changes of the jaw or other facial bones, surgical or orthodontic procedures on the bones of the face, jaw or hard palate (roof of the mouth) may be beneficial.

Orthodontic procedures to widen the palate (palatal or maxillary expansion) may be useful treatment options in some pediatric patients. Maxillomandibular advancement surgery includes a number of procedures designed to move the upper jaw (maxilla) and/or lower jaw (mandible) forward, thus opening the upper and/or lower airway, respectively. Although full maxillomandibular advancement surgery can provide effective enlargement and stabilization of the airway, the potential benefits must be cautiously weighed against the potential increased risks of complications, longer recovery and changes in the cosmetic appearance of the face.

What should I know before considering surgery?

Surgery is an effective and safe treatment option for many patients with snoring and sleep apnea, particularly those who are unable to use or tolerate CPAP. Proper patient and procedure selection is critical to successful surgical management of obstructive sleep apnea. Talk to your ear, nose and throat doctor for a complete evaluation and to learn what treatment may be best for you.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

Tonsils and adenoids are the body’s first line of defense as part of the immune system. They “sample” bacteria and viruses that enter the body through the mouth or nose, but they sometimes become infected. At times, they become more of a liability than an asset and may even cause airway obstruction or repeated bacterial infections. Your ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist can suggest the best treatment options.

What are tonsils and adenoids?

Tonsils and adenoids are similar to the lymph nodes or “glands” found in the neck, groin and armpits. Tonsils are the two round lumps in the back of the throat. Adenoids are high in the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth (soft palate) and are not visible through the mouth or nose without special instruments.

What affects tonsils and adenoids?

The two most common problems affecting the tonsils and adenoids are recurrent infections of the nose and throat, and significant enlargement that causes nasal obstruction and/or breathing, swallowing and sleep problems.

Abscesses around the tonsils, chronic tonsillitis and infections of small pockets within the tonsils that produce foul-smelling white deposits can also affect the tonsils and adenoids, making them sore and swollen. Cancers of the tonsil, while uncommon, require early diagnosis and aggressive treatment.

When should I see a doctor?

You should see your doctor when you or your child experience the common symptoms of infected or enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
Your physician will ask about problems of the ear, nose and throat and examine the head and neck. He or she may use a small mirror or a flexible lighted instrument to see these areas.

Other methods used to check tonsils and adenoids are:

  • Medical history
  • Physical examination
  • Throat cultures/Strep tests – helpful in determining infections in the throat
  • X-rays – helpful in determining the size and shape of the adenoids
  • Blood tests – helpful in diagnosing infections such as mononucleosis
  • Sleep study, or polysomnogram – helpful in determining whether sleep disturbance is occurring because of large tonsils and adenoids.

Tonsillitis and its symptoms

Tonsillitis is an infection of the tonsils. One sign is swelling of the tonsils. Other symptoms are:

  • Redder than normal tonsils
  • A white or yellow coating on the tonsils
  • A slight voice change due to swelling
  • Sore throat, sometimes accompanied by ear pain
  • Uncomfortable or painful swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck
  • Fever
  • Bad breath

Enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids and their symptoms

If your or your child’s adenoids are enlarged, it may be hard to breathe through the nose. If the tonsils and adenoids are enlarged, breathing during sleep may be disturbed. Other signs of adenoid and or tonsil enlargement are:

  • Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose most of the time
  • Nose sounds “blocked” when the person speaks
  • Chronic runny nose
  • Noisy breathing during the day
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Snoring at night
  • Restlessness during sleep, pauses in breathing for a few seconds at night (may indicate sleep apnea).

How are tonsil and adenoid diseases treated?

Bacterial infections of the tonsils, especially those caused by streptococcus, are first treated with antibiotics. Removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) and/or adenoids (adenoidectomy) may be recommended if there are recurrent infections despite antibiotic therapy, and/or difficulty breathing due to enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids. Such obstruction to breathing causes snoring and disturbed sleep that leads to daytime sleepiness, and may even cause behavioral or school performance problems in some children.

Chronic infections of the adenoids can affect other areas such as the eustachian tube – the passage between the back of the nose and the inside of the ear. This can lead to frequent ear infections and buildup of fluid in the middle ear that may cause temporary hearing loss. Studies also find that removal of the adenoids may help some children with chronic earaches accompanied by fluid in the middle ear (otitis media with effusion).

In adults, the possibility of cancer or a tumor may be another reason for removing the tonsils and adenoids. In some patients, especially those with infectious mononucleosis, severe enlargement may obstruct the airway. For those patients, treatment with steroids (e.g., prednisone) is sometimes helpful.

How to prepare for surgery

Children

  • Talk to your child about his/her feelings and provide strong reassurance and support
  • Encourage the idea that the procedure will make him/her healthier.
  • Be with your child as much as possible before and after the surgery.
  • Tell him/her to expect a sore throat after surgery, and that medicines will be used to help the soreness.
  • Reassure your child that the operation does not remove any important parts of the body, and that he/she will not look any different afterward.
  • It may be helpful to talk about the surgery with a friend who has had a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy.
  • Your otolaryngologist can answer questions about the surgical procedure.

Adults and children

For at least two weeks before any surgery, the patient should refrain from taking aspirin or other medications containing aspirin. (WARNING: Children should never be given aspirin because of the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome). Your doctor may ask to you to stop taking other medications that may interfere with clotting.

  • Tell your surgeon if the patient or patient’s family has had any problems with anesthesia or clotting of blood. If the patient is taking medications, has sickle cell anemia, has a bleeding disorder, is pregnant, or has concerns about the transfusion of blood, the surgeon should be informed.
  • A blood test may be required prior to surgery.
  • •A visit to the primary care doctor may be needed to make sure the patient is in good health at surgery.
  • You will be given specific instructions on when to stop eating food and drinking liquids before surgery. These instructions are extremely important, as anything in the stomach may be vomited when anesthesia is induced.

When the patient arrives at the hospital or surgery center, the anesthesiologist and nursing staff may meet with the patient and family to review the patient’s history. The patient will then be taken to the operating room and given an anesthetic. Intravenous fluids are usually given during and after surgery.

After the operation, the patient will be taken to the recovery area. Recovery room staff will observe the patient closely until discharge. Every patient is unique, and recovery time may vary.

Your ENT specialist will provide you with the details of pre-operative and post-operative care and answer your questions.

After surgery

There are several post-operative problems that may arise. These include swallowing problems, vomiting, fever, throat pain and ear pain. Occasionally, bleeding from the mouth or nose may occur after surgery. If the patient has any bleeding, your surgeon should be notified immediately. It is also important to drink liquids after surgery to avoid dehydration.

Any questions or concerns you have should be discussed openly with your surgeon.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

Las amígdalas y los adenoides son masas de tejido que se parecen a los nudos linfáticos o las glándulas del cuello, del ingle o de las axilas. Las amígdalas son las dos masas de la parte posterior de la garganta. Los adenoides se encuentran en la parte superior de la garganta detrás de la nariz y el techo de la boca (paladar blando) y no se ven por la boca sin instrumentos especiales.

Las amígdalas y los adenoides están cerca de la entrada de la vía respiratoria donde pueden atrapar los gérmenes que causan las infecciones. Agarran “muestras” de las bacteria y de los virus y pueden infectarse ellos mismos. Los científicos creen que funcionan como parte del sistema inmunológico del cuerpo al filtrar los gérmenes que tratan de invadir el cuerpo y que ayudan a desarrollar los anticuerpos contra los gérmenes.

Esta función se realiza durante los primeros años de la vida, volvíendose menos importante a medida que el niño crece. Los niños operados de las amígdalas y los adenoides no sufren ninguna disminución de la inmunidad.

¿Cuándo Debería Consultar a Mi Médico?

Ud. debe ver a su médico cuando Ud. o su niño sufre los síntomas comunes de las amígdalas o los adenoides infectados o agrandados.

¿Qué Afecta Las Amígdalas y Los Adenoides?

Los problemas más comunes que afectan las amígdalas y los adenoides son las infecciones repetidas de la garganta o del oído y la hipertrofia u obstrucción significativa que causa problemas de la respiración o la deglución.

Asimismo, los abscesos alrededor de las amígdalas, la amigdalitis crónica y las infecciones de las cavidades dentro de las amígdalas que producen materia cremosa y maloliente pueden afectar las amígdalas y los adenoides, dejándolos adoloridos e hinchados. Aunque poco frecuentes, puede haber tumores en las amígdalas.

¿Qué Debo Esperar Del Examen?

Su médico le hará preguntas sobre los problemas del oído, la nariz y la garganta y examinará la cabeza y el cuello. Para ver estas áreas, utilizará un espejo pequeño o un instrumento flexible con luz.

Para diagnosticar ciertas infecciones de la garganta, los cultivos o las pruebas de estreptococo son importantes.

Las radiografías pueden ser útiles para determinar el tamaño y la forma de los adenoides. Los análisis de sangre pueden identificar problemas tales como la mononucleosis.

El Examen

Los métodos principales de chequear las amígdalas y los adenoides son

  • La historia clínica
  • El examen físico
  • El cultivo bacteriológico y la prueba de estreptococo
  • Las radiografías
  • Los análisis de sangre

¿Cómo Se Tratan Las Enfermedades De Las Amígdalas Y Los Adenoides?

En primer lugar, se tratan las infecciones de las amígdalas, especialmente las causadas por el estreptococo, con los antibióticos. En algunos casos, se recomienda la extirpación de las amígdalas o los adenoides. Las dos razones principales para la extirpación son (1) las infecciones repetidas a pesar de la terapia de antibióticos y (2) problemas con la respiración debido a las amígdalas o los adenoides crecidos. Tal obstrucción respiratoria produce el ronquido y el sueño alterado que conducen a la soñolencia durante el día en los adultos y problemas de conducta en los niños. Algunos ortodontistas creen que la respiración bucal crónica debida a las amígdalas o los adenoides agrandados causa la malformación de la cara y la alineación mala de los dientes.

La infección crónica puede afectar a otras estructuras como la trompa de Estaquio que vincula la parte posterior de la nariz con el interior del oído, lo que conduce a las infecciones frecuentes del oído y la pérdida auditiva posible.

Los estudios recientes indican que la extirpación de los adenoides puede ser un tratamiento positivo para los niños con dolores crónicos del oído acompañado de fluído en el oído medio (otitis media con efusión).

En los adultos, la posibilidad de cáncer o un tumor también puede justificar la extirpación de las amígdalas y los adenoides.

En algunos pacientes, especialmente con mononucleosis infecciosa, el agrandamiento marcado de los adenoides puede bloquear la vía respiratoria. Para ellos, el tratamiento con esteroides—por ejemplo, cortisona—puede ser útil.

La Amigdalitis y Sus Síntomas

La amigdalitis es una infección de una o las dos amígdalas. Otras indicaciones o síntomas son

  • Amígdalas más rojas que lo normal
  • Capa blanca o amarilla en las amígdalas
  • Un cambio de la voz debido al hinchazón
  • Dolor de garganta
  • Deglución incómoda o dolorosa
  • Nudos linfáticos hinchados en el cuello
  • Fiebre
  • Hálito malo

Los Adenoides Agrandados y Sus Síntomas

Si se agrandan los adenoides, la respiración puede ser díficil. Otras señales del agrandamiento son

  • Respiración por la boca en vez de la nariz la mayor parte del tiempo
  • Nariz tapada cuando la person habla
  • Respiración ruidosa durante el día
  • Infecciones repetidas del oído
  • Ronquidos de noche
  • Paros de la respiración por unos segundos de noche durante ronquidos o respiración ruidosa (apnea)

La Cirugía

Su hijo: Converse con su hijo sobre sus sentimientos, y dele confianza y apoyo por todo el proceso. Promueva la idea que el paso beneficiará la salud. Acompañe a su hijo el mayor tiempo posible antes y después de la cirugía. Avísele que le va a doler la garganta después de la cirugía. Asegúrele que la operación no quita ninguna parte importante del cuerpo ni cambiará la apariencia. Si su hijo tiene un amigo que ha tenido esta cirugía, el hablar con ese amigo puede ayudar a su hijo.

Los adultos y los niños: Por lo menos quince días antes de cualquier cirugía, el paciente debe dejar de tomar aspirina u otros medicamentos que contienen aspirina. (AVISO: Nunca se debe dar aspirina a los niños dado el riesgo del síndrome de Reye.)

Si el paciente o algún familiar ha tenido problemas con la anestesia, se debe informar al cirujano. También, se le debe avisar si el paciente está tomando otra medicina, tiene anemia o hemorragia, está embarazada, está preocupado por la transfusión de sangre, o ha utilizado esteroides durante el año anterior.

Se puede exigir una prueba de sangre y posiblemente de orina antes de la cirugía.

Generalmente, antes de la cirugía y después de medianoche, no se debe ingerir nada, inclusive chicle, gárgaras, pastillas para la garganta, pasta de dientes y agua. Cuando se inicia la anestesia, cualquier contenido del estómago puede producir vómitos, y esto es peligroso.

Cuando el paciente se interna, el anestesiólogo o un enfermero puede reunirse con el paciente y su familia para repasar la historia del paciente. Luego se le lleva a la sala de operaciones donde se le da la anestesia. Generalmente, se dan sueros intravenosos durante y después de la cirugía.

Después de la operación, el paciente pasará a la sala de recuperación donde el personal le observará hasta darle de alta. El tiempo necesario para la recuperación del paciente puede variar de unas horas hasta un día. Ciertos casos pueden necesitar cuidado intensivo.

Su médico le proporcionará todos los detalles de su tratamiento antes y después de la cirugía, y contestará todas sus preguntas.

Después de la Cirugía

Hay varias síntomas que pueden surgir después de la operación, inclusive problemas para tragar, vómitos, fiebre, dolor de garganta y dolor del oído. En algunos casos, puede haber desangramiento después de la cirugía. En tal caso, hay que avisar al cirujano en seguida.

Se debe conversar abiertamente cualquier pregunta o preocupación con el cirujano, que está para ayudarle.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

The tonsils are two clusters of tissue located on both sides of the back of the throat. Adenoids sit high in the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth. Tonsils and adenoids are often removed when they become enlarged and block the upper airway, leading to breathing difficulty. They are also removed when recurrence of tonsil infections or strep throat cannot be successfully treated by antibiotics. The surgery is most often performed on children.

The procedure to remove the tonsils is called a tonsillectomy; excision of the adenoids is an adenoidectomy. Both procedures are often performed at the same time; hence the surgery is known as a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, or T&A.

T&A is an outpatient surgical procedure lasting between 30 and 45 minutes and performed under general anesthesia. Normally, the young patient will remain at the hospital or clinic for several hours after surgery for observation. Children with severe obstructive sleep apnea and very young children are usually admitted overnight to the hospital for close monitoring of respiratory status. An overnight stay may also be required if there are complications such as excessive bleeding, severe vomiting or low oxygen saturation.

When the tonsillectomy patient comes home

Most children take seven to ten days to recover from the surgery. Some may recover more quickly; others can take up to two weeks for a full recovery. The following guidelines are recommended:

Drinking: The most important requirement for recovery is for the patient to drink plenty of fluids. Starting immediately after surgery, children may have fluids such as water or apple juice. Some patients experience nausea and vomiting after the surgery. This usually occurs within the first 24 hours and resolves on its own after the effects of anesthesia wear off. Contact your physician if there are signs of dehydration (urination less than 2-3 times a day or crying without tears).

Eating: Generally, there are no food restrictions after surgery, but some physicians will recommend a soft diet during the recovery period. The sooner the child eats and chews, the quicker the recovery. Tonsillectomy patients may be reluctant to eat because of throat pain; consequently, some weight loss may occur, which is gained back after a normal diet is resumed.

Fever: A low-grade fever may be observed the night of the surgery and for a day or two afterward. Contact your physician if the fever is greater than 102º.

Activity: Activity may be increased slowly, with a return to school after normal eating and drinking resumes, pain medication is no longer required, and the child sleeps through the night. Travel on airplanes or far away from a medical facility is not recommended for two weeks following surgery.

Breathing: The parent may notice snoring and mouth breathing due to swelling in the throat. Breathing should return to normal when swelling subsides, 10-14 days after surgery.

Scabs: A scab will form where the tonsils and adenoids were removed. These scabs are thick, white and cause bad breath. This is normal. Most scabs fall off in small pieces five to ten days after surgery.

Bleeding: With the exception of small specks of blood from the nose or in the saliva, bright red blood should not be seen. If such bleeding occurs, contact your physician immediately or take your child to the emergency room.

Pain: Nearly all children undergoing a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy will have mild to severe pain in the throat after surgery. Some may complain of an earache (so called referred pain) and a few may have pain in the jaw and neck .

Pain control: Your physician will prescribe pain medication for the young patient such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, acetaminophen with codeine, or acetaminophen with hydrocodone. The pain medication will be in a liquid form or sometimes a rectal suppository will be recommended. Pain medication should be given as prescribed. Contact your physician if side effects are suspected or if pain is not well-controlled. If you are troubled about any phase of your child’s recovery, contact your physician immediately.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

Could Your Medication Be Affecting Your Voice?

Some medications including prescription, over-the-counter and herbal supplements can affect the function of your voice. If your doctor prescribes a medication that adversely affects your voice, make sure the benefit of taking the medicine outweighs the problems with your voice.

Most medications affect the voice by drying out the protective mucosal layer covering the vocal cords. Vocal cords must be well-lubricated to operate properly; if the mucosa becomes dry, speech will be more difficult. This is why hydration is an important component of vocal health.

Medications can also affect the voice by thinning blood in the body, which makes bruising or hemorrhaging of the vocal cord more likely if trauma occurs, and by causing fluid retention (edema), which enlarges the vocal cords. Medications from the following groups can adversely affect the voice:

  • Antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Diuretics
  • Antihypertensives (blood pressure medication)
  • Antihistamines (allergy medications)
  • Anticholinergics (asthma medications)
  • High-dose Vitamin C (greater than five grams per day)
  • Other medications and associated conditions that may affect the voice include: Angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (blood pressure medication) may induce a cough or excessive throat clearing in as many as 10 percent of patients. Coughing or excessive throat clearing can contribute to vocal cord lesions.
  • Oral contraceptives may cause fluid retention (edema) in the vocal cords because they contain estrogen.
  • Estrogen replacement therapy post-menopause may have a variable effect.
  • An inadequate level of thyroid replacement medication in patients with hypothyroidism.
  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners) may increase chances of vocal cord hemorrhage or polyp formation in response to trauma.
  • Herbal medications are not harmless and should be taken with caution. Many have unknown side effects that include voice disturbance.

NOTE: Contents of this page are based on information provided by The Center for Voice at Northwestern University.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

What is laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)?

Food or liquids that are swallowed travel through the esophagus and into the stomach where acids help digestion. Each end of the esophagus has a sphincter, a ring of muscle, that helps keep the acidic contents of the stomach in the stomach or out of the throat. When these rings of muscle do not work properly, you may get heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Chronic GER is often diagnosed as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

Sometimes, acidic stomach contents will reflux all the way up to the esophagus, past the ring of muscle at the top (upper esophageal sphincter or UES) and into the throat. When this happens, acidic material contacts the sensitive tissue at back of the throat and even the back of the nasal airway. This is known as laryngopharyngeal reflux or LPR.

During the first year, infants frequently spit up. This is essentially LPR because the stomach contents are refluxing into the back of the throat. However, in most infants, it is a normal occurrence caused by the immaturity of both the upper and lower esophageal sphincters, the shorter distance from the stomach to the throat, and the greater amount of time infants spend in the horizontal position. Only infants who have associated airway (breathing) or feeding problems require evaluation by a specialist. This is most critical when breathing-related symptoms are present.

What are symptoms of LPR?

There are various symptoms of LPR. Adults may be able to identify LPR as a bitter taste in the back of the throat, more commonly in the morning upon awakening, and the sensation of a “lump” or something “stuck” in the throat, which does not go away despite multiple swallowing attempts to clear the lump. Some adults may also experience a burning sensation in the throat. A more uncommon symptom is difficulty breathing, which occurs because the acidic, refluxed material comes in contact with the voice box (larynx) and causes the vocal cords to close to prevent aspiration of the material into the windpipe (trachea). This event is known as laryngospasm.

Infants and children are unable to describe sensations like adults can. Therefore, LPR is only successfully diagnosed if parents are suspicious and the child undergoes a full evaluation by a specialist such as an otolaryngologist. Airway or breathing-related problems are the most commonly seen symptoms of LPR in infants and children and can be serious. If your infant or child experiences any of the following symptoms, timely evaluation is critical.

  • Chronic cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Noisy breathing (stridor)
  • Croup
  • Reactive airway disease (asthma)
  • Sleep disordered breathing (SDB)
  • Spit up
  • Feeding difficulty
  • Turning blue (cyanosis)
  • Aspiration
  • Pauses in breathing (apnea)
  • Apparent life threatening event (ALTE)
  • Failure to thrive (a severe deficiency in growth such that an infant or child is less than five percentile compared to the expected norm)

What are the complications of LPR?

In infants and children, chronic exposure of the laryngeal structures to acidic contents may cause long term airway problems such as a narrowing of the area below the vocal cords (subglottic stenosis), hoarseness, and possibly eustachian tube dysfunction causing recurrent ear infections, or persistent middle ear fluid, and even symptoms of “sinusitis’. The direct relationship between LPR and the latter mentioned problems are currently under research investigation.

How is LPR diagnosed?

Currently, there is no good standardized test to identify LPR. If parents notice any symptoms of LPR in their child, they may wish to discuss with their pediatrician a referral to see an otolaryngologist for evaluation. An otolaryngologist may perform a flexible fiber-optic nasopharyngoscopy/laryngoscopy, which involves sliding a 2 mm scope through the infant or child’s nostril, to look directly at the voice box and related structures or a 24-hour pH monitoring of the esophagus. He or she may also decide to perform further evaluation of the child under general anesthesia. This would include looking directly at the voice box and related structures (direct laryngoscopy), a full endoscopic look at the trachea and bronchi (bronchoscopy), and an endoscopic look at the esophagus (esophagoscopy) with a possible biopsy of the esophagus to determine if esophagitis is present. LPR in infants and children remains a diagnosis of clinical judgment based on history given by the parents, the physical exam and endoscopic evaluations.

How is LPR treated?

Since LPR is an extension of GER, successful treatment of LPR is based on successful treatment of GER. In infants and children, basic recommendations may include smaller and more frequent feedings and keeping an infant in a vertical position after feeding for at least 30 minutes. A trial of medications including H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors may be necessary. Similar to adults, those who fail medical treatment, or have diagnostic evaluations demonstrating anatomical abnormalities may require surgical intervention.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

Does your child have allergies? Allergies can cause many ear, nose and throat symptoms in children, but allergies can be difficult to separate from other causes. Here are some clues that allergies may be affecting your child.

Children with nasal allergies often have a history of other allergic tendencies (or atopy). These may include early food allergies or atopic dermatitis in infancy. Children with nasal allergies are at higher risk for developing asthma.

Nasal allergies can cause sneezing, itching, nasal rubbing, nasal congestion and nasal drainage. Usually, allergies are not the primary cause of these symptoms in children under four years old. In allergic children, these symptoms are caused by exposure to allergens (mostly pollens, dust, mold and dander). Observing which time of year or in which environments the symptoms are worse can be important clues to share with your doctor.

Ear infections:

One of childrens’ most common medical problems is otitis media, or middle ear infection. In most cases, allergies are not the main cause of ear infections in children under two years old. But in older children, allergies may play role in ear infections, fluid behind the eardrum, or problems with uncomfortable ear pressure. Diagnosing and treating allergies may be an important part of healthy ears.

Sore throats:

Allergies may lead to the formation of too much mucus which can make the nose run or drip down the back of the throat, leading to “post-nasal drip.” It can lead to cough, sore throats and a husky voice.

Sleep disorders:

Chronic nasal obstruction is a frequent symptom of seasonal allergic rhinitis and perennial (year-round) allergic rhinitis. Nasal congestion can contribute to sleep disorders such as snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, because the nasal airway is the normal breathing route during sleep. Fatigue is one of the most common, and most debilitating, allergic symptoms. Fatigue not only affects children’s quality of life, but has been shown to affect school performance.

Pediatric sinusitis:

Allergies should be considered in children who have persistent or recurrent sinus disease. Depending on the age of your child, their individual history and an exam, your doctor should be able to help you decide if allergies are likely. Some studies suggest that large adenoids (a tonsil-like tissue in the back of the nose) are more common in allergic children.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

Today in the United States, studies estimate that 34% of U.S. adults are overweight and an additional 31% (approximately 60 million) are obese. Combined, approximately 127 million Americans are overweight or obese. Some 42 years ago, 13% of Americans were obese, and in 1980 15% were considered obese.

Alarmingly, the number of children who are overweight or obese has doubled in the last two decades as well. Currently, more than 15% of 6- to 11-year-olds and more than 15% of 12- to 19-year-olds are considered overweight or obese.

What is the difference between designated “obese” versus “overweight”?

Unfortunately, the words overweight and obese are often interchanged. There is a difference:

  • Overweight: Anyone with a body mass index (BMI) (a ratio between your height and weight) of 25 or above (e.g., someone who is 5-foot-4 and 145 pounds) is considered overweight.
  • Obesity: Anyone with a BMI of 30 or above (e.g., someone who is 5-foot-4 and 175 pounds) is considered obese.
  • Morbid obesity: Anyone with a BMI of 40 or above (e.g., someone who is 5-foot-4 and 233 pounds) is considered morbidly obese. “Morbid” is a medical term indicating that the risk of obesity related illness is increased dramatically at this degree of obesity.

Obesity can present significant health risks to the young child. Diseases are being seen in obese children that were once thought to be adult diseases. Many experts in the study of children’s health suggest that a dysfunctional metabolism, or failure of the body to change food calories to energy, precedes the onset of disease. Consequently, these children are at risk for Type II diabetes, fatty liver, elevated cholesterol, SCFE (a major hip disorder), menstrual irregularities, sleep apnea and irregular metabolism. Additionally, there are psychological consequences; obese children are subject to depression, loss of self-esteem and isolation from their peers.

Pediatric obesity and otolaryngic problems

Otolaryngologists, or ear, nose and throat specialists, diagnose and treat some of the most common children’s disorders. They also treat ear, nose and throat conditions that are common in obese children, such as:

Sleep apnea

Children with sleep apnea literally stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, often for a minute or longer, usually ten to 60 times during a single night. Sleep apnea can be caused by either complete obstruction of the airway (obstructive apnea) or partial obstruction (obstructive hypopnea – or slow, shallow breathing), both of which can wake one up. There are three types of sleep apnea – obstructive, central and mixed. Of these, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. Otolaryngologists have pioneered the treatment for sleep apnea; research shows that one to three percent of children have this disorder, often between the age of two-to-five years old.

Enlarged tonsils, which block the airway, are usually the key factor leading to this condition. Extra weight in obese children and adults can also interfere with the ability of the chest and abdomen to fully expand during breathing, hindering the intake of air and increasing the risk of sleep apnea.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has identified obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) as a common condition in childhood that results in severe complications if left untreated. Among the potential consequences of untreated pediatric sleep apnea are growth failure; learning, attention, and behavior problems; and cardio-vascular complications. Because sleep apnea is rarely diagnosed, pediatricians now recommend that all children be regularly screened for snoring.

Middle ear infections

Acute otitis media (AOM) and chronic ear infections account for 15 to 30 million visits to the doctor each year in the U.S. In fact, ear infections are the most common reason why an American child sees a doctor. Furthermore, the incidence of AOM has been rising over the past decades. Although there is no proven medical link between middle ear infections and pediatric obesity there may be a behavioral association between the two conditions. Some studies have found that when a child is rubbing or massaging the infected ear the parent often responds by offering the child food or snacks for comfort.

When a child does have an ear infection the first line of treatment is often a regimen of antibiotics. When antibiotics are not effective, the ear, nose and throat specialist might recommend a bilateral myringotomy with pressure equalizing tube placement (BMT), a minor surgical procedure. This surgery involves the placement of small tubes in the eardrum of both ears. The benefit is to drain the fluid buildup behind the eardrum and to keep the pressure in the ear the same as it is in the exterior of the ear. This will reduce the chances of any new infections and may correct any hearing loss caused by the fluid buildup.

Postoperative vomiting (POV) is a common problem after bilateral myringotomy surgery. The overall incidence is 35 percent, and usually occurs on the first postoperative day, but can occur up to seven days later. Several factors are known to affect the incidence of POV, including age, type of surgery, postoperative care, medications, co-existing diseases, past history of POV, and anesthetic management. Obesity, gastroparesis, female gender, motion sickness, pre-op anxiety, opioid analgesics and the duration of anesthetic all increase the incidence of POV. POV interferes with oral medication and intake, delays return to normal activity and increases length of hospital stay. It remains one of the most common causes of unplanned postoperative hospital admissions.

Tonsillectomies

A child’s tonsils are removed because they are either chronically infected or, as in most cases, enlarged, leading to obstructive sleep apnea. There are several surgical procedures utilized by ear, nose and throat specialists to remove the tonsils, ranging from use of a scalpel to a wand that emits energy that shrinks the tonsils.

Research conducted by otolaryngologists found that morbid obesity was a contributing factor for requiring an overnight hospital admission for a child undergoing removal of enlarged tonsils. Most children who were diagnosed as obese with sleep apnea required a next-day physician follow-up.

A study from the University of Texas found that morbidly obese patients have a significant increase of additional medical disorders following tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy for obstructive sleep apnea or sleep-disordered breathing when compared to moderately obese or overweight patients undergoing this procedure for the same diagnosis. On average they have longer hospital stays, a greater need for intensive care and a higher incidence of the need for apnea treatment of continuous positive airway pressure upon discharge from the hospital. The study found that although the morbidly obese group had a greater degree of sleep apnea, they did benefit from the procedure in regards to snoring, apneic spells and daytime somnolence.

What you can do

If your child has a weight problem, contract your pediatrician or family physician to discuss the weight’s effect on your child’s health, especially prior to treatment decisions. Second, ask your physician about lifestyle and diet changes that will reduce your child’s weight to a healthy standard.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

Everyone has gastroesophageal reflux (GER), the backward movement (reflux) of gastric contents into the esophagus. Extraesophageal Reflux (EER) is the reflux of gastric contents from the stomach into the esophagus with further extension into the throat and other upper aerodigestive regions. In infants, more than 50 percent of children three months or younger have at least one episode of regurgitation a day. This rate peaks at 67 percent at four months old. But an infant’s improved muscle control and the ability to sit up will lead to a spontaneous resolution of significant GER in more than half of infants by 10 months old, and four out of five at age 18 months. Researchers have found that 10 percent of infants younger than 12 months with GER develop significant complications.

The diseases associated with reflux are known collectively as Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Physically, GERD occurs when a valve at the lower end of the esophagus malfunctions. Normally, this muscle closes to keep acid in the stomach and out of the esophagus. The continuous entry of acid or refluxed materials into areas outside the stomach can result in significant injury to those areas. It is estimated that some 5 to 8 percent of adolescent children have GERD.

What symptoms are displayed by a child with GERD?

While GER and EER in children often cause relatively few symptoms, the most common initial symptom of GERD is heartburn. Heartburn is more common in adults, and children have a harder time describing this sensation. They usually will complain of a stomach ache or chest discomfort, particularly after meals.

More frequent or severe GER and EER can cause other problems in the stomach, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, lungs, sinuses, ears, and even the teeth. Consequently, other typical symptoms can include crying/irritability, poor appetite/feeding and swallowing difficulties, failure to thrive/weight loss, regurgitation (“wet burps” or outright vomiting), stomach aches (dyspepsia), abdominal/chest pain (heartburn), sore throat, hoarseness, apnea, laryngeal and tracheal stenosis, asthma/wheezing, chronic cough and throat clearing, chronic sinusitis, ear infections/fluid, and dental caries. Effortless regurgitation is very suggestive of GER. However, recurrent vomiting (which is not the same) does not necessarily mean a child has GER.

If your child displays the typical symptoms of GERD, a visit to a pediatrician is warranted. However, in some circumstances, the disorder may cause significant ear, nose and throat disorders. When this occurs, an evaluation by an otolaryngologist is recommended.

How is GERD diagnosed?

Most of the time, the physician can make a diagnosis by interviewing the caregiver and examining the child. There are occasions when testing is recommended, and each test has advantages and shortcomings. Those most commonly used to diagnose GERD include:

  • pH probe: A small wire with an acid sensor is placed through the nose down to the bottom of the esophagus, and usually left in place between 12-24 hours. The sensor detects when acid from the stomach is “refluxed” into the esophagus.
  • Barium swallow or upper GI series: The child is fed barium, a white, chalky, liquid. A video x-ray machine follows the barium through the upper intestinal tract and lets doctors see if there are any abnormal twists, kinks or narrowing of the tract.
  • Technetium gastric emptying study: The child is fed milk mixed with technetium, a very weak radioactive chemical, which is then followed through the intestinal tract using a special camera. This test helps determine whether some of the milk/technetium ends up in the lungs, and how long milk sits in the stomach.
  • Endoscopy with biopsies: This most comprehensive test involves passing a flexible endoscope with lights and lenses through the mouth into the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. This allows the doctor to see any irritation or inflammation present. In some children with GERD, repeated exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid causes some inflammation (esophagitis). Endoscopy in children usually requires a general anesthetic.

What treatments are available for GERD?

Treatment of reflux in infants is intended to lessen symptoms, not to relieve the underlying problem, as this will often resolve on its own with time. A simple treatment is to thicken a baby’s milk or formula with rice cereal, making it less likely to be refluxed.

Several steps can be taken to assist the older child with GERD:

  • Lifestyle changes: Raise the head of the child’s bed about 30 degrees and have the child eat smaller, more frequent meals instead of large amounts of food at one sitting. Avoid eating right before they go to bed or lie down; let two or three hours pass. Try a walk or warm bath or even a few minutes on the toilet. Some researchers believe that certain lifestyle changes such as losing weight or dressing in loose clothing may assist in alleviating GERD.
  • Dietary changes: Avoid chocolate, carbonated drinks, caffeine, tomato products, peppermint, and other acidic foods like citrus juices. Fried foods and spicy foods are also known to aggravate symptoms. Pay attention to what your child eats.
  • Medical treatment: Most medications prescribed to treat GERD break down or lessen intestinal gas, decrease or neutralize stomach acid or improve intestinal coordination. Your physician will prescribe the most appropriate medication for your child. It is rare for children with GERD to require surgery.

© 2016 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery