Bilateral vocal cord palsy after a posterior cervical laminoplasty

Bilateral vocal cord palsy after a posterior cervical laminoplasty

Chizuo Iwai, Kazunari Fushimi, Satoshi Nozawa, Yukihiro Shirai, Hiroyasu Ogawa, Ko Yasura, Katsuji Shimizu, Haruhiko Akiyama

June 2018, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 549 - 554
First Online: 11 June 2018


To report a patient with bilateral vocal cord palsy following cervical laminoplasty, who survived following a tracheotomy and intensive respiratory care.


Acute respiratory distress is a fatal complication of cervical spinal surgery. The incidence of bilateral vocal cord palsy after posterior cervical decompression surgery is extremely rare. The authors report a 71-year-old woman who suffered from cervical myelopathy due to ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament. Open-door laminoplasty from C2 to C6 and laminectomy of C1 were performed. Following surgery, extubation was successfully conducted. Acute-onset dysphagia and stridor had occurred 2 h following extubation. A postoperative fiber optic laryngoscope revealed bilateral vocal cord palsy. After a tracheotomy and intensive respiratory care, she had completely recovered 2 months after surgery.


One potential cause of this pathology was an intraoperative hyper-flexed neck position, which likely induced mechanical impingement of the larynx, resulting in swelling and edema of the vocal cords and recurrent laryngeal nerve paresis. Direct trauma of the vocal cords during intubation and extubation could have also induced vocal cord paralysis.


We reported a case of bilateral vocal cord palsy associated with posterior cervical laminoplasty. Airway complications following posterior spinal surgery are rare, but they do occur; therefore, spine surgeons should be aware of them and take necessary precautions against intraoperative neck position, intubation technique, even positioning of the intratracheal tube.