Objective: To determine the incidence, etiology, prognosis, and treatment of vocal cord paralysis (VCP) after surgery for thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA).
Study design: Retrospective study performed between 1989 and 1995.
Setting: Academic, tertiary care, referral medical center.
Patients: Seventy-one TAA patients underwent surgery at the Kameda Medical Center between 1989 and 1995.
Results: Sixty-two of 71 patients were examined postoperatively for voice quality. Twenty patients (32%) had hoarseness develop caused by VCP, as confirmed by laryngoscopy. The left recurrent laryngeal nerve had been sacrificed in 1 patient during surgery, but it was preserved in the remaining 19 patients. Unilateral left VCP was noted in 19 patients, and bilateral VCP occurred in 1 patient. The incidence of VCP was higher in those patients who underwent surgery for type I aneurysms (9 of 14 patients, 64%). In 16 of the 19 patients (84%) who received follow-up for > 6 months, vocal cord movement did not return to normal. Surgery to improve voice quality, arytenoid adduction in five patients and intracordal injection in two patients, was performed with success.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that surgery for TAA is associated with a relatively high incidence of VCP. VCP occurred despite preservation of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, and the paralysis did not show a spontaneous recovery even 6 months after surgery.