Indirect vs Direct Voice Therapy for Children With Vocal Nodules: A Randomized Clinical Trial

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Abstract

Importance

Benign vocal fold nodules affect 12% to 22% of the pediatric population, and 95% of otolaryngologists recommend voice therapy as treatment. However, no randomized clinical trials that we are aware of have shown its benefits.

Objective

To determine the impact of voice therapy in children with vocal fold nodules according to pretherapy and posttherapy scores on the Pediatric Voice-Related Quality of Life (PVRQOL) survey; secondary objectives included changes in phonatory parameters.

Design, Setting, and Participants

For this multicenter randomized clinical trial, 114 children ages 6 to 10 years with vocal fold nodules, PVRQOL scores less than 87.5, and dysphonia for longer than 12 weeks were recruited from outpatient voice and speech clinics. This age range was identified because these patients have not experienced pubertal changes of the larynx, tolerate stroboscopy, and cooperate with voice therapy. Participants were blinded to treatment arm.

Interventions

Participants received either indirect or direct therapy for 8 to 12 weeks. Indirect therapy focused on education and discussion of voice principles, while direct treatment used the stimulus, response, antecedent paradigm.

Main Outcomes and Measures

The primary outcome measure was PVRQOL score change before and after treatment. Secondary phonatory measures were also compared.

Results

Overall, 114 children were recruited for study (mean [SD] age, 8 [1.4] years; 83 males [73%]); with 57 randomized to receive either indirect or direct therapy. Both direct and indirect therapy approaches showed significant differences in PVRQOL scores pretherapy to posttherapy. The mean increase in PVRQOL score for direct therapy was 19.2, and 14.7 for indirect therapy (difference, 4.5; 95.3% CI, −10.8 to 19.8). Of 44 participants in the direct therapy group, 27 (61%) achieved a clinically meaningful PVRQOL improvement, compared with 26 of 49 (53%) for indirect therapy (difference, 8%; 95% CI, −12 to 28). Post hoc stratification showed robust effects in the direct therapy group for older children (Cohen d = 0.50) and the latter two-thirds of participants (Cohen d = 0.46). Vocal fold nodules reduced in size in 31% (22 of 70) and completely resolved in 11% (8 of 70) of participants who consented to a second set of images after going through the recruitment process.

Conclusions and Relevance

Both direct and indirect voice therapy improved voice-related quality of life in children with vocal fold nodules, although there was no significant difference between approaches. Future studies may focus upon which voice therapy approaches are effective in treating age-defined populations.

Trial Registration

clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01255735

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