Voice Abnormalities and Laryngeal Pathology in Preterm Children

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Abstract

Introduction:

The prevalence of voice abnormalities in children born prematurely has been reported to be as high as 58%. Few studies have examined these abnormalities with laryngoscopic or videostroboscopic findings and characterized their laryngeal pathologies.

Objective:

To review voice abnormalities in patients with a history of prematurity and characterize the etiology of their voice problems. A secondary objective is to see if there is a correlation between the findings and the patient’s intubation and surgical history.

Methods:

A retrospective chart review was conducted of all preterm patients seen in voice clinic at a tertiary pediatric hospital. Demographic data, diagnoses, and office laryngoscopies were reviewed as well as any speech therapy evaluations and/or medical and surgical treatments.

Results:

Fifty-seven patients were included. Mean age at presentation was 5.1 (±4.3) years. Mean gestational age was 27.8 (±3.7) weeks. Consensus Auditory-Perceptual Evaluation of Voice (CAPE-V) perceptual evaluations included a mean overall dysphonia severity of 46.6 (±24.2). Patients who had undergone prolonged intubation (≥28 days) in the NICU or had prolonged NICU stays (>12 weeks) had significantly higher overall dysphonia severity scores. Thirty-three patients with vocal fold hypo- or immobility had significantly greater voice deviance in breathiness, loudness, and overall severity compared to those without vocal fold immobility. Of all patients, 35% were recommended surgical intervention and 49% voice therapy.

Conclusion:

Intubation greater than 28 days and prolonged NICU stays are associated with more severe dysphonia in premature patients. There should be a low threshold for clinical evaluation of dysphonia in this unique patient population.

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