Head & Neck
Nodules & Polyps
Non-cancerous growths of the vocal cords account for around 50% of persistent voice symptoms. Nodules and polyps are the most common benign vocal cord lesions.
What are the symptoms of vocal cord nodules and polyps?
Vocal cord nodules and polyps tend to cause persistent hoarseness. In some cases, they may lead to more subtle voice changes (like a decrease in vocal range or change in pitch), or cause pain on speaking.
What causes vocal cord nodules and polyps?
Vocal cord nodules are common in women and children they are a bit like the calluses you get on your fingers from heavy work. They are usually linked with chronic heavy voice use and vocal cord strain. “Vocal abuse” could be due to prolonged or loud talking, or even habitual throat clearing and coughing.
Polyps are usually one sided and are more common in men. They may be caused by a sudden vocal load (such as loud shouting), acid reflux and are sometimes linked with smoking.
How does A/Prof McGuinness assess my vocal cords?
If you consult A/Prof McGuinness for a voice complaint, he will take a detailed medical history and conduct a physical examination. He will also perform laryngoscopy, which is an office procedure to view your vocal cords. During laryngoscopy, A/Prof McGuinness introduces a thin flexible tube (nasendoscope) through your nostril and into your larynx. Laryngoscopy allows A/Prof McGuinness to view your vocal cords while you talk. He is also able to perform videostroboscopy of the larynx. Using specialised technology, videostroboscopy allows him to analyse vibrations of the vocal cords which are too rapid to be seen by the human eye.
How are vocal cord nodules and polyps treated?
Vocal cord nodules are generally a sign of underlying chronic voice strain. They are best managed with speech therapy and voice hygiene. Speech therapy equips you with techniques to look after your voice. Voice hygiene includes:
Nodules can usually be treated with the measures described above but may rarely require surgery.
Polyps generally require surgical removal. Surgery is an effective treatment for voice symptoms caused by polyps. When a polyp is removed, it may require analysis by the laboratory to make sure that it is not cancerous.
How is vocal cord surgery done?
Vocal cord surgery can be done as a day procedure and is performed under a general anaesthetic. A hollow metal tube called a laryngsocope is passed through the mouth to view the larynx. Specialised instruments are then used under microscopic control to perform the surgery.
A/Prof McGuinness is a recognised expert in the use of laser techniques for voice surgery. Instead of making an incision, some growths can be removed with a laser. This allows even quicker healing, with a lower risk of scarring.
Recovery from vocal cord surgery is usually uncomplicated, but it is important to follow A/Prof McGuinness’ post-operative advice. Total voice rest is required for several days after the procedure. Subsequent speech therapy helps to promote optimal recovery.
If you are experiencing ongoing voice problems, it is important to see a specialist for investigation and treatment. A/ Prof McGuinness is highly experienced in the diagnosis and management of vocal cord nodules and polyps and can provide the expert care that you need.