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Clinical Note
September 2001

Clicking in the Throat: Cinematic Fiction or Surgical Fact?

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, National Center for Voice and Speech (Drs Smith and Gray and Ms Dove) and the Department of Radiology (Dr Harnsberger), University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City; and the Division of Head and Neck Surgery, University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA School of Medicine (Dr Berke).

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2001;127(9):1129-1131. doi:10.1001/archotol.127.9.1129

The complaint of a clicking in the throat when swallowing is uncommon but very discomforting and painful for those who experience it. It is such an unusual complaint that symptoms may be dismissed as psychogenic because a cause for the problem may not be readily apparent. We present a series of 11 cases in which all patients had an audible clicking or popping noise in the throat associated with neck and throat pain when swallowing or turning the neck. The most helpful diagnostic procedure was careful examination and palpation of the neck while the patient swallowed to localize the side and source of the clicking. Laryngeal computed tomographic (CT) scans helped in some cases to demonstrate thyroid-cartilage and/or vertebral body asymmetry. Each case was treated with surgery of the neck and larynx to trim the portion of the thyroid cartilage causing the clicking. In most cases the superior cornu of the thyroid cartilage projected posteriorly and medially. Surgery was successful in all cases to eliminate the symptoms. Though an uncommon complaint, our experience suggests that the clicking throat is a surgically treatable problem.

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