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Preoperative laryngoscopic examination in patients undergoing repeat anterior cervical discectomy and fusion

Adrian L. Curry, BS,1 William F. Young, MD2,3

1Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA 2Fort Wayne Neurological Center, Fort Wayne, IN 3Indiana University School of Medicine, Fort Wayne Center, Fort Wayne, IN


Study Background

Patients who experience a recurrent laryngeal nerve injury (RLI) after undergoing an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) procedure may eventually become asymptomatic. If patients with an asymptomatic vocal cord abnormality undergo a subsequent ACDF they may be at risk for developing bilateral vocal cord paralysis (VCP). Bilateral VCP is a potentially life threatening problem, requiring emergent tracheotomy in some cases. A program of referring patients for preoperative laryngoscopic examinations (PLE) who were being considered for a revision ACDF was instituted. This study reviews the results of these examinations and determines if the information gained impacted management.


Patients who were referred for PLE prior to revision ACDF were identified from a prospectively maintained database during the period 2004 – 2010. All patients underwent examinations by an Otorhinolaryngologist specialist (ENT) using a nasopharyngoscope in combination with video stroboscopic examination.


23 patients were identified as having a PLE and subsequent revision ACDF. 18 patients underwent a single level ACDF and 5 patients underwent a previous 2 level surgery. Significant findings were found in 4 patients. 2 patients presented with asymptomatic VCP and 2 patients with chronic hoarseness. One was found with VCP and the other with a vocal cord mass. The revision procedures were performed on the same side as the previous ACDF.


17.3% of patients undergoing PLE exhibited abnormalities, affecting decision-making regarding side of approach for revision ACDF. PLE is a simple and effective way of screening patients for abnormalities prior to revision ACDF surgery.

Laryngoscopic, Cervical, Cost comparison, discectomy
Volume 7