Vocal cord dysfunction in three children—misdiagnosis of bronchial asthma?

B Niggemann, K Paul, R Keitzer, U Wahn
Pediatric Allergy and Immunology 1998, 9 (2): 97-100
Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) is a paradoxical function of the vocal cords, leading to intermittent predominantly inspiratory dyspnea, but with no response to bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory drug therapy. We report on three children with VCD: 1) A 12-year old boy, who was treated for many years for bronchial asthma and who presented with inspiratory dyspnea and a functional reduction of the inspiratory and expiratory flow-volume curve, 2) a 13-year old girl who was also treated for bronchial asthma on a long-term basis and in whom the paradoxical vocal cord movement could be demonstrated by laryngoscopy, and 3) a 17-year old girl who, besides clinical symptoms of bronchial asthma in her anamnesis, suffered from an intermittent severe inspiratory dyspnea, refractory to bronchodilator treatment. Laryngoscopy proved the diagnosis of VCD. No patient showed a deterioration on discontinuation of their antiasthmatic therapy. VCD is best diagnosed by assessment of the vocal cords during laryngoscopy. The following therapeutic measures are helpful: 1) Demonstration of diagnosis (e.g. videodocumentation of laryngoscopy) and reassurance of patients and parents, 2) speech therapy, and 3) psychological intervention and/or psychotherapy. Our three cases point to a differential diagnosis of recurrent dyspnea in children and adolescents which may be overlooked. It is important to question earlier diagnoses, and to objectively evaluate the type of dyspnea.

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