Neuropathy | Last Active: Jul 22, 2021 | Replies (26)
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Good morning, Ray. Yes, a paralyzed vocal cord is a risk of anterior cervical spine surgery because of possible nerve damage due to the proximity of the nerves to the surgical path. If you damage a nerve it causes muscle atrophy, and the vocal cord goes slack. This would make the voice sound like a whisper because the vocal cords don't close together to control the sound. During anterior spine surgery, they will retract the esophagus and trachea to the side so they can access the spine right behind it, so that gets stretched a little bit. My voice was a little hoarse for 2 days after surgery, but I could speak fine. My throat was sore (2 weeks) and swallowing was tricky for a few more weeks after that. It does help to stretch the muscles and skin on the neck where the incision will be. I asked my surgeon that ahead of time and he showed me what to do that could make it easier for him. You can ask your surgeon what they would do differently if you were an opera singer and depended on your voice for a living. Sometimes there is a posterior approach to the cervical surgery which hurts more and has a longer recovery, but it all depends on where the surgeon needs to access the spine, and how to get there with the least amount of risk of damaging other areas. I knew a lady from another online group who did have a paralyzed vocal cord after spine surgery. She had multiple spine surgeries before that with out vocal cord issues. She did go to Mayo and get the implant which is a triangle shaped device that takes up some space and pushes the vocal cord to meet its mate. She had posted a video of her speaking after that and her voice was normal again. I don't think that happens to a high percentage of patients, but your surgeon needs to answer that. It is best to seek several opinions before you decide on surgery, and you could get a 2nd opinion from a surgeon who has operated on people who depend on their voice professionally.
I like that you are seeking information to make an informed choice and keeping an open mind. I did that too, and I even watched surgeons giving presentations to other surgeons online about spine surgery, and management of the issues that arise, and what make a good or poor candidate for a procedure. To have a great outcome, you need an excellent surgeon who you can trust with your life, and to get onboard and embrace the situation. Having a positive attitude really helps, and it helps you heal better and lowers your stress. Stress and worry over surgery will just increase fear and pain. I expected something much worse than it was for me. In the hospital, the day of surgery, the pain meds just nauseated me. They didn't take all the pain away anyway, and it wasn't horrible. After I left the hospital, I managed just fine without pain meds and just accepted some healing pain. The more you know about something, the less it will worry you. Do ask the surgeon to explain your MRI imaging to you and explain everything on the report. My opinion does not count since I am not a medical professional, but I think you will be offered surgery, but keep in mind, you may not be offered surgery if the surgeon is afraid to take your case if it looks too complicated. At that point, a deformity specialist might be a good consult. My surgeon was that, and also taught cervical procedures at spine conferences. You might look up the credentials of the surgeon you will see ahead of time and look for any videos or research papers they have written. I don't know if you can choose a surgeon yourself, but it helps to shop around and see what is out there. I had to do that until I found the right one.