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The vocal cords, also known as the vocal folds, are two bands of smooth tissue that are covered with mucous membranes located side-by-side in the voice box (larynx). The vocal cords guard the entrance to the windpipe. They vibrate and air passes through the cords from the lungs to produce the sound of your voice.
When the mucosa of the vocal cords is damaged or strained, doctors may recommend a surgical procedure called decortication of vocal cords as a treatment option. In the decortication of vocal cords, the damaged mucosa of the vocal cords is removed. Your doctor may recommend this procedure if:
There’s a growth in your vocal cords
There’s an infection in your vocal cords
You experience symptoms of vocal cord dysfunction, including raw feeling at the back of the throat, loss of vocal range, difficulty breathing, hoarseness, and a constant need to clear the throat.
Decortication of vocal cords is most often used to treat Reinke’s Edema. This is a condition in which the vocal cords swell and/or develop polyps, affecting voice quality.
You should not speak or use your voice for three to five days to allow your vocal cords to heal. If your job does not involve using your voice and physical activity, you should be able to go back to work within a week or two. It may take around 6 to 8 weeks for your vocal cords to fully recover, so make sure to treat your voice with care during this time. Your doctor will give you a recovery timeline, including the exact time you can go back to work, exercise, and use your voice normally.
The decortication of vocal cords is considered a safe procedure with high success rates. It is effective to treat problems in your vocal cords. While it is very safe, you should be aware of the potential risks, including nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, sore throat, permanent injury to the vocal cord, damage to nearby structures, significant bleeding, lung problems, and swelling of the airway.