Vocal fold movement impairment may significantly compromise postoperative recovery and quality of life of patients following thoracic or cardiothoracic surgery or prolonged intubation. The literature is limited and there is no standard screening protocol for the optimal postoperative swallowing and aspiration evaluations. We performed retrospective review of adult patients undergoing early vocal fold (VF) injection laryngoplasty for acute postoperative Vocal fold movement impairment (<30 days) that had both pre- and postinjection speech language pathologist (SLP) performed swallowing/aspiration evaluations. Records were reviewed for demographics, clinical characteristics, procedural details, and short-term outcome measures of oral intake. In total, 30 patients were included, and had data on swallowing/aspiration studies before and after the VF injection laryngoplasty. Most of the patients were injected within 5 days following the laryngologist evaluation and within 14 days following the iatrogenic recurrent laryngeal nerve injury (23/30, 76.7%). The majority of patients were injected at the bedside by awake transcutaneous injection (22/30, 73.3%), six patients were injected in the operating room under general anesthesia, and two at the outpatient clinic. Pre- and postinjection SLP evaluations included clinical bedside assessment or instrumental evaluation. Following VF injection laryngoplasty, oral diet advancement was noted in 81.8% of the patients that were nil per os before the injection (18/22). No complications were noted. In conclusions, acute VFMI following surgery requires immediate diagnosis and therapeutic strategy to minimize postoperative complications and to overcome impairments in the voice, swallow, and cough. Otolaryngology-SLP interdisciplinary aspiration and swallowing assessment protocol is proposed based on our experience and an extensive literature review.
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