A thyroplasty is a surgery which is designed to address weakened vocal cords. In the surgery, the doctor changes the length or position of the vocal cords to make them stronger. This surgery can be performed to correct voice disorders and to address issues such as coughing or choking while swallowing which may arise as a result of weakening in the vocal cords. An ear, nose, and throat surgeon is usually chosen to perform the procedure.
When the vocal cords become weak, the voice can become breathy and stressed. It is difficult to talk, and the patient may feel uncomfortable with the sound of his or her voice. In addition, it can be hard for people to hear or understand the patient. The weakening can also cause problems with eating or drinking which may lead to malnutrition or unintended weight loss.
In a thyroplasty procedure, the patient is usually placed under sedation and given a local anesthetic. The surgeon makes a small incision in the neck to access the vocal cords. After making adjustments and possibly implanting a wedge to strengthen the vocal cords, the surgeon can ask the patient to talk. This allows the surgeon to judge the success of the procedure right away, and to make any needed adjustments. The procedure can take one to two hours in total.
After the thyroplasty procedure, the incision is closed, and the patient is taken to recovery to rest. Patients are usually advised to refrain from straining their voices during recovery, and may be given dietary recommendations. Until the incision heals and the stitches are removed, the patient must be careful to keep the surgical site dry. Antibiotics are also typically prescribed as a prophylactic to prevent infection.
Once the site is fully healed, the patient should be able to use her or his voice normally. If problems persist after the thyroplasty, additional evaluation may be needed to learn more about why the patient is experiencing speech problems. It can also help to work with a speech pathologist who can help the patient with speaking and swallowing.
When selecting a surgeon to work with for a thyroplasty, it is advisable to look up the surgeon's record, and to ask the surgeon about his or her experience. A competent surgeon will be happy to talk to patients about how many surgeries she or he has performed, and what kind of outcomes patients experience. The surgeon should also fully disclose potential risks so that the patient can make an informed decision about the surgery.