Dysphagia Outcomes Following Surgical Management of Unilateral Vocal Fold Immobility in Children: A Systematic Review

Kastley Marvin, Michael Coulter, Christopher Johnson, Tzyynong Friesen, Kimberly Morris, Matthew T. Brigger

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess dysphagia outcomes following surgical management of unilateral vocal fold immobility in children. Data Sources: Ovid Medline, Embase, Web of Science, and CENTRAL databases. Review Methods: A systematic review of the medical literature was performed following the PRISMA guidelines. An a priori protocol was defined to identify all articles that presented quantifiable outcome data in children aged <18 years who underwent surgical treatment to improve glottal competence for dysphagia. Two authors independently determined references meeting the inclusion criteria, extracted data, and assigned levels of evidence. Data were pooled via a random effects model where possible. The quality of studies was graded with the MINORS criteria. Results: An overall 398 publications were screened, with 9 meeting inclusion criteria. A total of 115 patients were included. Of these, 75% had preoperative swallowing symptoms. Surgical intervention for dysphagia included 61 injection laryngoplasties, 11 medialization laryngoplasties, and 10 reinnervations (ansa cervicalis to recurrent laryngeal nerve). The articles consistently reported success in improving dysphagia symptoms, and limited meta-analysis demonstrated a mean improvement after surgical intervention in 79% (95% CI, 67%-91%) of children. The reported rate of minor and major complications was 15% (95% CI, 1%-29%). The MINORS scores ranged from 5 to 12. Conclusion: Surgical management of unilateral vocal fold immobility in properly selected children can be an effective treatment for dysphagia when symptoms are present. Selection of surgical modalities relies on patient- and surgeon-related factors, and the rate of success is high across different interventions in treating these complex children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)602-610
Number of pages9
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • aspiration
  • dysphagia
  • injection laryngoplasty
  • laryngeal reinnervation
  • medialization
  • meta-analysis
  • paralysis
  • pediatric
  • systematic review
  • unilateral vocal fold immobility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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