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January 1989

Esophageal Stethoscope: Another Possible Cause of Vocal Cord Paralysis

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, and the Section of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Illinois Masonic Medical Center (Dr Friedman); and the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago (Dr Toriumi).

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1989;115(1):95-98. doi:10.1001/archotol.1989.01860250097035

• Hoarseness after endotracheal intubation can result from compression of the anterior branch of the recurrent laryngeal nerve as it passes behind the thyroid cartilage to innervate the lateral cricoarytenoid muscle. This usually occurs when the cuff of the endotracheal tube lies in the larynx instead of the trachea. When a nasogastric tube is positioned in the midline, resultant postcricoid inflammation can result in vocal cord immobility. This may result from neuropraxia of the posterior branch of the recurrent laryngeal nerve that innervates the posterior cricoarytenoid and interarytenoid muscles, or inflammatory spasm of the interarytenoid muscles themselves. We present a case of vocal cord paralysis after general anesthesia that may have been caused by an esophageal stethoscope. The mechanism for vocal cord immobility could be similar to that of a midline nasogastric tube with resultant postcricoid inflammation. We describe measures that can be taken to prevent vocal cord paralysis after intubation of the larynx or esophagus.

(Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 1989;115:95-98)