Everyone has two vocal cords in his or her larynx (voicebox). The vocal cords vibrate during speech to produce voice. If one or both vocal cords are paralyzed and are unable to move then the person will experience voice problems and possibly breathing and swallowing problems.

Bilateral paralysis is often medically treated but may require a tracheotomy to allow the person to breathe and/or eat safely. Surgery may be considered to bring one or both vocal cords closer to midline. Unilateral paralysis can be treated medically and/or behaviorally. Medical treatment includes muscle-nerve transplant, medialization thyroplasty (moving the paralyzed vocal fold toward midline), or injection of a substance to increase the size of the paralyzed vocal cord. Behavioral treatment includes voice therapy by a speech-language therapist. Depending on the individual patient’s condition, it may be the only treatment required.