Researchers Report First Case of Vocal Cord Paralysis Due To SARS-CoV-2

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Approximately four years into the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and scientists are still getting perplexed. Researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary have now reported the first case of bilateral vocal cord paralysis in a pediatric case linked to a COVID-19 infection.

COVID-19 causes bilateral vocal cord paralysis

The report outlines the case of a 15-year-old girl, previously in good health, who presented at Massachusetts General Hospital’s emergency department with respiratory distress symptoms nine days after testing positive for SARS-CoV-2.

A follow-up examination utilizing an endoscope identified a condition characterized by the immobility of both vocal cords in the larynx (voice box). Despite an exhaustive investigation that ruled out alternative causes, physicians determined that the paralysis was probably a consequence of COVID-19.

This case highlights the potential connection between vocal cord paralysis and the SARS-CoV-2 virus, suggesting that it may be a neuropathic complication associated with COVID-19, in addition to the already documented neurological effects of the infection.

The first author, Dr. Danielle Reny Larrow emphasized the importance of considering a newly recognized potential complication in children with recent COVID-19 diagnoses who present with breathing, talking, or swallowing complaints.  Larrow, stresses the need for awareness, given the virus’s prevalence among children. This caution is crucial as these symptoms might be mistakenly attributed to more common conditions like asthma.

In the hospital, the patient underwent extensive diagnostic tests, consultations with various departments, and speech therapy. Despite no improvement, a tracheostomy was performed, creating a windpipe opening. The patient remained tracheostomy-dependent for 13+ months, indicating a persistent nerve complication, according to researchers.

Post-viral neuropathy from SARS-CoV-2 triggers vocal paralysis

Physicians successfully removed a tracheostomy 15 months after a case report submission. The patient, a teen, experienced vocal cord paralysis due to post-viral neuropathy from SARS-CoV-2, a rare complication in young, healthy individuals. This marks the first-ever report of such a complication in a teen, highlighting the unexpected nature of complications in pediatric SARS-CoV-2 cases.

Therefore, it is crucial for the pediatric community to recognize the potential long-term neurotrophic effects of COVID-19 on children to ensure effective treatment and care for them.

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