Vocal Cord Surgery

Why Do I Need Vocal Cord Surgery?  What Should I Expect?

Some voice disorders that cause hoarseness require surgery to improve the voice. This includes polyps, some nodules, precancers, vocal cord cancers, benign growths of the vocal cord, cysts, vocal cord weakness, varicose vessels on the vocal cords, and scar. In general surgery on vocal cords is brief and low risk. The surgeries are performed under general anesthesia where a small breathing tube is inserted so the vocal cords due not move during surgery. The surgeries are performed under a microscope and are very precise, often with instruments that are no more than 1-2 millimeters in size. It is usual to go home after waking up after these surgeries. A family member must drive you home as you will still be groggy when you leave.

Vocal cord surgeries are not usually painful but there is the sensation that you need to cough for 3-5 days after the surgery which is usually helped by cough medicine that will be prescribed by your doctor. The tongue may be sore or numb for a day or two after the surgery as the instrument that holds the throat open puts some pressure on the tongue. Some patients even feel like the taste is a liitle off for a day or two but this is rare. If that happens, it will go away in a few days.

It is usual for the patient to be on voice rest for one week after vocal cord surgery to allow the incision on the vocal cord to heal properly. This means no talking at all, just writing on a board, texting, or emailing. Not talking also reduces the discomfort after surgery. It is normal to have a visit with the doctor one week after the surgery to check the healing and then recommend the level of voice use for the following week. If things are not healing well, sometimes an additional week of voice rest may (or modified voice rest, which means no raising of the voice and no prolonged conversations) be required. In general, singing is a much more strenuous activity that is typically not recommended for 6 weeks after vocal cord surgery.