Idiopathic Unilateral Vocal Fold Paralysis in Older Patients: Characteristics in the Disease Course and Implication of Computed Tomography for Evaluation of Etiology

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Abstract

Objectives:

This study aimed to compare the characteristics of idiopathic unilateral vocal fold paralysis (IUVFP) in elderly versus younger patients, including the diagnostic yield of computed tomography (CT) scans for identifying the structural causes of IUVFP.

Methods:

We retrospectively analyzed medical records of the patients initially diagnosed with IUVFP in a single referral tertiary hospital. We compared patients’ baseline characteristics, initial symptoms, laryngoscopic findings, and prevalence of structural causes on CT scans with respect to age (younger, <65 years vs older, ≥65 years).

Results:

One hundred forty-two patients were enrolled (90 younger, 52 older). Evident structural causes were more frequently found on CT in older patients than younger patients (40.4% vs 22.2%, P = .034). Among truly idiopathic cases (70 younger, 31 older), recovered vocal fold mobility was identified in 48.6% younger and 41.9% older patients (P = .666). There was no statistically significant difference in the characteristics between unrecovered and recovered subjects of the older patients with true IUVFP (all P > .05).

Conclusions:

The CT scans provided significantly higher diagnostic yields in older patients than younger patients. The degrees of symptoms and complications and likelihood of natural recovery did not significantly differ between younger and older patients with IUVFP.

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