Arytenoidectomy, or partial removal of the arytenoid cartilage, is performed to treat bilateral vocal fold paralysis.
Persons breathe primarily through the posterior or back portion of the glottis. In fact, some refer to this area as the “respiratory glottis”. In cases of bilateral vocal fold immobility or paralysis, the vocal folds do not open with breathing.
Sugery is typically performed through the mouth, using a laryngoscope, with a patient asleep. A laser may be used to remove a portion of the arytenoid and/or vocal fold. As the body heals, a small gap is left between the vocal folds which allow patients to breathe easier.
Full closure of the vocal folds is optimal for optimal voice production and swallowing ability. Thus, surgery to open the glottis, such as arytenoidectomy carries with it the risk of worsening a patient’s voice or swallowing ability.
Alternatives to an arytenoidectomy may include tracheotomy, cordotomy, and vocal fold lateralization.