Prevalence of Vocal Cord Paralysis in Patients with Incidentally Discovered Enlarged Lymph Nodes along the Expected Course of the Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve

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Abstract

Objectives:

We sought to determine the prevalence of vocal cord paralysis in patients with incidentally discovered lymphadenopathy along the expected course of the recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN).

Methods:

We reviewed the positron-emission tomographic (PET) and computed tomographic (CT) scans of 936 consecutive patients with a variety of diagnoses. Enlarged lymph nodes (short-axis diameter of more than 1 cm) along the expected course of the RLN were identified. Patients with lymphadenopathy were evaluated for CT signs of vocal cord paralysis. The medical records of patients with lymphadenopathy were reviewed for clinical signs of vocal cord paralysis. Patients with head and neck malignancies were excluded from the study.

Results:

Lymphadenopathy along the course of the RLN was identified in 57 of the 936 patients studied. Fifty-three of the 57 patients (93%) were found to have a malignancy. Thirty-four enlarged nodes (60%) had FDG uptake as shown on a PET/CT scan. Twenty enlarged nodes (35%) had CT evidence of extracapsular spread. Four patients (7%) had CT evidence of vocal cord paralysis. One patient (2%) had clinical evidence of vocal cord paralysis.

Conclusions:

In asymptomatic patients with incidental lymphadenopathy along the course of the RLN, vocal cord paralysis is rare.

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