Vocal cord injections are typically used to treat age-related voice changes, vocal cord scarring, and vocal cord paralysis. The procedure involves augmenting the vocal cords with injections of a filling agent.
What You Should Do Before the Procedure
Ten days before the procedure, you should discontinue taking any medications that contain ibuprofen or aspirin to prevent excessive bleeding. You should also refrain from taking multivitamins, herbal supplements, and vitamin E. It is acceptable to use acetaminophen for pain.
Patients who take blood thinners, such as Plavix, Coumadin, or Lovenox, should talk to their primary physician to determine the appropriate times to stop and restart these medications. Typically, we recommend that patients stop these medications a week before their treatment; however, your doctor will help you determine the best time based on your circumstances.
You should not eat or drink anything, including water and coffee, for at least three hours before your procedure. If you have medicines that you must take during this time, take them with the smallest sip of water possible.
Be sure to tell your doctor or nurse if you have allergies to any medications ending in “caine,” such as lidocaine.
What to Expect During the Procedure
In most cases, the doctor will perform the injection through the mouth. Before doing the injection, the doctor will use lidocaine spray to numb the back of your mouth and reduce the gag reflex. You may notice a strange sensation at the back of your throat as the doctor drips numbing medication onto your vocal cords. Once you are numb, the doctor will inject the filler into the vocal cords.
An alternative technique involves injecting the material through the neck. The doctor inserts a small camera through the nose in order to visualize the voice box. The skin and vocal cords are then numbed. A thin needle is then used to inject the filler.
What to Expect After the Procedure
It will take about an hour for the numbing medication to wear off and your swallowing reflex to return to normal. During this time. you should not eat or drink. Once the numbness has worn off, you can eat and drink as normal. You should try to avoid coughing and clearing your throat to keep from irritating the vocal cords.
It is normal to have blood-tinged mucous immediately following the procedure. You should avoid smoking as this will irritate the throat and increase secretions.
Pain Relief and Blood Thinners
You may experience throat pain once the numbing medication wears off. If necessary, you can use acetaminophen to ease the discomfort. You should avoid pain relievers that contain ibuprofen or aspirin.
You should drink plenty of fluids to keep the throat lubricated, but you should not gargle. In most cases, you can restart Plavix, Coumadin, and other blood thinners a day after your procedure. You should not speak for two to three days following the injection to give the vocal cords time to heal. You may notice some residual hoarseness, but this should resolve with time.