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Vocal cord paralysis and car accidents

You might expect some neck soreness — or even whiplash — after being rear-ended on the road, but would you ever expect vocal cord paralysis?

What is vocal cord paralysis?

This is actually a very serious injury that can be catastrophic for victims. It occurs because the nerves in the victim’s larynx are damaged, leading to either temporary or permanent damage to the vocal cord muscles.

What are the symptoms of the disorder?

Your vocal cords don’t just control your ability to speak. They also control your ability to breathe easily and swallow. The symptoms of vocal cord paralysis may come on suddenly or develop gradually over a few days after the accident. Symptoms include:

  • A breathy sounding voice or inability to speak above a whisper
  • A loud, raspy noise with each breath
  • A change in your vocal pitch
  • Difficulty coughing or “ineffective” coughing that fails to clear your throat
  • A compulsive desire to clear your throat
  • Getting out of breath after speaking just a few words
  • Choking, gagging and difficulty swallowing food and liquid items

If these symptoms develop after a car accident, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible.

How is the condition treated?

More than likely, your doctor will refer you to a specialist known as an otolaryngologist. However, treatment is usually as conservative as possible for at least a year in hopes that the symptoms will disappear on their own. In some cases, however, a tracheotomy is necessary to help you breathe more easily.

If the condition doesn’t improve on its own, you’ll probably have to have surgery to see if the doctors can restore the function to your vocal cords — although permanent damage is likely.

As you can imagine, the disruption to your life can be considerable. You may not be able to work or enjoy your normal life while you are healing — or possibly, permanently. The catastrophic nature of this injury makes it especially important to talk to an experienced injury law attorney as soon as possible.