Bilateral vocal cord immobility can be life threatening for some patients. Others, who have an open glottic chink, may have a breathy dysphonia, intermittent dyspnea, and stridor. These signs and symptoms may also be found in a number of other conditions that cause weakness or paradoxical motion of the vocal cords that mimics paralysis. These other conditions include central nervous system diseases, neuromuscular disorders, laryngospasm, and psychogenic disorders. In addition, patients with cricoarytenoid joint immobility or interarytenoid scar can also have similar symptoms at presentation. It is critical to consider the differential diagnosis of an assumed bilateral vocal cord paralysis and understand the management of paradoxical movement, weakness, joint fixation, interarytenoid scar, laryngospasm, and psychogenic disorders. The treatment for bilateral immobility should proceed only after a thorough evaluation, which might include electromyography and/or examination during general anesthesia under dense anesthetic paralysis. Reconstructive procedures are the treatments of choice, and destructive procedures should be chosen only as a last resort.
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