Outcomes Following Cordotomy by Coblation for Bilateral Vocal Fold Immobility

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Abstract

Importance

Bilateral vocal fold immobility (BVFI) can result in considerable voice and airway impairment. Although the carbon dioxide (CO2) laser is commonly used in transverse cordotomy, the coblator, a minimally invasive, low-thermal technology, has been increasingly used in otolaryngology.

Objective

To investigate outcomes associated with coblation to treat BVFI.

Design, Setting, and Participants

A retrospective case series was conducted between January 2012 and June 2017 including 19 patients with BVFI who underwent cordotomy by coblation in a single tertiary care institution.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Clinical, operative, and health status data for all patients were reviewed. Quality of life was measured by the EuroQol 5-Dimensions (EQ-5D), and the Voice Handicap Index (VHI) was used to measure vocal cord function.

Results

Nineteen patients were eligible for inclusion, 15 of which underwent cordotomy by coblation for BVFI without stenosis. Mean age was 57 years with 13 (68%) women. The etiology of BVFI included thyroidectomy in 8 (42%) patients and prolonged intubation in 7 (37%). Mean length of surgery for BVFI without stenosis was 17 minutes; mean operating room (OR) time was 63 minutes compared with 88 scheduled OR minutes (effect size, 25 minutes; 95% CI, 9 to 40 minutes). During follow-up, 4 (27%) of these patients developed granulation tissue postoperatively. Following surgery, patient-reported shortness of breath significantly improved, with 10 of 14 (71%; 95% CI, 45% to 88%) patients with some level of preoperative breathing difficulty experiencing improvement in their breathing. Stridor also significantly improved, with 10 of 12 (83%; 95% CI, 55% to 95%) patients with some level of preoperative stridor improved after surgery. The EQ-5D results trended toward improvement postoperatively (0.67 to 0.80; effect size, 0.13; 95% CI, −0.10 to 0.34). The functional (22 to 12; effect size, −10; 95% CI, −19 to −2), emotional (23 to 11; effect size, −12; 95% CI, −23 to −3), and total VHI all significantly improved (68 to 39; effect size, −29; 95% CI, −49 to −8).

Conclusions and Relevance

Initial outcomes of cordotomy by coblation revealed that this technique was a safe and efficient approach to treating BVFI. Coblation was associated with significant reduction in OR time compared with scheduled time, and patients experienced significant improvement in shortness of breath, stridor, and vocal cord function.

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