Watch the top-rated show The Voice and you’ll see famous performers and musicians coaching amateur singers to success. Visit Yavapai Regional Medical Center’s (YRMC’s) Physical Rehabilitation Services and you’ll find an exceptional team using videostroboscopy – the latest technology – to help people regain their voices.
“Vocal cords are very complex,” said Lorrie Nebrig, MA/CCC, YRMC Speech/Language Pathologist. “They move fast, which makes them difficult to evaluate. With videostroboscopy, we can take movies or still shots of the vocal cords.”
Who does videostroboscopy help? Nebrig and Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) physicians, like Derek Hewitt, MD, work with people of all ages—young professionals who overuse their voices in their careers to elderly people with medical conditions or normal aging. Occasionally, children even need their help.
“Vocal cord problems are equal opportunity problems,” Nebrig said.
Vocal cord issues can stem from ongoing, incorrect use of the voice or medical conditions, such as:
- Acid reflux
- Papillomas (bumps)
- Pre-cancerous lesions
- Traumatic injury
Cancer survivors who have undergone radiation therapy and people who have suffered strokes also may experience vocal cord problems.
No matter their origin, most vocal cord issues begin with hoarseness or laryngitis that persists three weeks or longer. While vocal cord issues are fairly common, state-of-the-art videostroboscopy is less available. In fact, YRMC is one of a few Arizona hospitals to offer videostroboscopy.
The videostroboscopy equipment includes a 5-foot tower with two microscopes for exams – one rigid and the other flexible – as well as a computer, camera, monitor, processor and printer. This sophisticated unit is used for:
- Voice Analysis – Recording an individual’s voice in order to create an “acoustic fingerprint” and detect voice problems due to overuse or chronic misuse.
- Videostroboscopy Exam – Taking slow-motion images of the vocal cords in action as a way to diagnose medical conditions or determine if someone could benefit from voice therapy.
During an exam, a scope with a tiny video camera and strobe light is placed in the patient’s mouth. The camera projects a frame-by-frame moving image of the vocal cords onto the computer monitor.
“Most people’s vocal cords cycle about 300 times per second,” said Dr. Hewitt. “The human eye doesn’t have the capability to capture the fast-moving cycles of the vocal folds. Using videostroboscopy, we can take pictures at different times in that vocal fold cycle. This allows us to diagnose subtle conditions of the vocal cords.”
These exams are the foundation of a detailed treatment plan that is tailored to an individual’s needs. In addition to surgery and medicine, many are prescribed voice therapy with Nebrig. She teaches patients how to care for vocal cords as well as vocal strengthening and relaxation exercises. Her therapy sessions often include videostroboscopy.
“It’s a wonderful patient education tool,” she said. “I can make a recording and then immediately share it with patients. This gives them a complete understanding of their diagnosis and how that translates to surgical treatment or outpatient therapy.”
This is very gratifying to YRMC’s Speech/Language Pathology team.
“Communication is the root of who we are as people,” Nebrig said. “When you give people back the ability to communicate, you’re giving them back who they are. It’s extremely rewarding.”
For more information about videostroboscopy, contact your primary care doctor or ENT physician. If you don’t have a physician, call YRMC Physician Referral Service at (928) 771-5106 or visit us online.