Everyone knows the most common injuries resulting from car accidents – lacerations, whiplash, back problems, broken bones – but there are countless injuries that can occur during a crash that no one’s ever heard of. Vehicle collisions are so dangerous they can damage any part of someone’s body due to the sheer force of the crash, colliding with the seatbelt or airbag, penetration by debris, or being thrown from the vehicle. One of the very serious but less common injuries that can affect someone is vocal cord paralysis. This condition can occur during a car accident if the neck or chest is injured. Trauma in these regions of the body may damage the nerves responsible for the voice.
In general, vocal cord paralysis is when one or both vocal cords can’t move properly to produce someone’s voice. For some reason, the nerve impulses that tell your vocal cords what to do aren’t working.
Everyone has two muscles known as vocal cords in their larynx, which is commonly called the voicebox. Our voices are produced when these vocal cords come close together and vibrate. These cords are important outside of the voice as well, as they cover the trachea and ensure that food and liquids don’t go down the windpipe. While we breathe, the vocal cords are open.
An individual can suffer from one of two types of vocal cord paralysis. Unilateral paralysis is the most common form and occurs when one vocal cord is paralyzed or has severely limited movement. If the cord can move, it may vibrate abnormally.
Bilateral paralysis is less common and involves both vocal cords placed halfway between open and closed. In this situation, the cords can’t move in either direction, to fully open or close.
The symptoms of this condition will vary depending on the person, the type, and the severity. People may have symptoms for days or weeks before discovering the underlying problem. The person may be unable to speak or have trouble talking. For instance, he or she may be able to produce a voice for a very brief period of time or suffer from limitations in their pitch and volume.
When a voice is produced, it may sound hoarse or breathy. These are signs there may be issues breathing properly.
Individuals suffering from vocal cord paralysis may also choke or cough while eating and have trouble swallowing. This issue needs to be addressed by a physician right away because people with this condition may get food and liquids in their lungs and develop pneumonia.
A physician will look at the vocal cords through a laryngoscope or an endoscope through the mouth or nose. In special cases, a tiny camera will be used to get a better view of the vocal cords and determine their position and the amount of movement someone can produce.
The exact treatment for the condition depends on how it was caused and the severity. In mild cases, people can get better without surgery through voice therapy. A doctor may recommend undergoing therapy with a speech-language pathologist, which involves exercises to strengthen the vocal cords, protect your windpipe while eating, and improve breathing.
In some cases, an individual needs surgical intervention, which can include a tracheotomy, vocal cord repositioning, replacing a damaged nerve with a healthy one, a structural implant in the affected cord, or a bulk injection of fat or collagen in the affected cord. All of these surgeries are serious operations, most of which require a surgeon who specializes in these types of disorders. A tracheotomy may be permanent or temporary, and will depend on whether other medical procedures or behavioral therapies can close the vocal cords.
Additionally, many of these surgeries hope to improve a person’s ability to speak, but they don’t guarantee someone’s old voice back. The individual may need to see a speech-language pathologist to learn how to use what voice they have.
No matter the treatment, individuals suffering from vocal cord paralysis can expect a long recovery, which may not end with them having their strong, original voice back.
Someone who suffers vocal cord paralysis due to a car accident has more to worry about than their medical treatment. While getting better is their first priority, most individuals will worry about their time away from work as well as how they’ll be able to perform when they return to their jobs. Many occupations rely on communication between employees or between employees and customers. Injured individuals may need accommodations at work to continue being able to do their job.
If you or a loved one was hurt after being hit by a vehicle, you want an experienced personal injury attorney by your side. Our car accident attorneys serve clients throughout the Chicago area, including Aurora, Elgin, Hinsdale, Joliet, Naperville, and Waukegan. A lawyer who has litigated car accident cases before will understand the true and long-term consequences of this injury and will do whatever he or she can do to maximize your recovery. Contact Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at (312) 236-2900 to learn more.