Functional Electrical Stimulation for the Treatment of Bilaterial Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve Paralysis

Randal A. Otto, William Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We have previously presented the concept of electrophysiologic pacing of bilaterally paralyzed vocal cord abductors as a solution to the difficult problem incurred in this clinical situation. Initially, we demonstrated that it was indeed feasible to electrophysiologically pace abduction of the vocal cords synchronously with respiration, employing the EMG activity of the diaphragm as a trigger stimulus. Further research has led us to evaluate other possible physiologic trigger stimuli to ascertain which of these will prove most suitable in long-term pacing studies. In this article, we will report our preliminary results, employing negative intrathoracic pressure occurring with respiration—as detected by an implanted pressure transducer as a trigger stimulus. This device was interfaced with a muscle stimulator attached to electrodes placed in the cricoarytenoid muscles in five canines whose recurrent laryngeal nerves had been sectioned bilaterally. In all animals, obvious physiologic synchrony of vocal cord abduction and a reduciton of negative inspiratory intratracheal pressure was achieved during electrical pacing. This reinforces our initial findings that it is indeed feasible to pace vocal cord abduction in bilaterial recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis with resultant return of physiologic normality to the glottis. Thus, functional electrical stimulation offers an alternative approach to the difficult problems incurred in the patient with bilateral recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis. It also demonstrates that physiologic negative intrathoracic pressure activity occurring with inspiration can be a trigger source.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-51
Number of pages5
JournalOtolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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