October 11, 2011

Respiratory Spasmodic Dysphonia

Respiratory spasmodic dysphonia is one of the most rare subtypes of a class of laryngeal dystonia collectively known as spasmodic dysphonia. It is also known more accurately as laryngeal adductor breathing dystonia or respiratory spasmodic dystonia or respiratory laryngeal dystonia.


Spasmodic dysphonia is a type of dystonia in which there are involuntary muscle spasms or contractions of the muscles involved in voice production. This disorder is similar to the involuntary eyelid twitches of blepharospasm. Spasmodic dysphonia should not be, but is often confused with muscle tension dysphonia or tremor. There are 2 main types of spasmodic dysphonia: ABductor and ADductor. Other much more rare types include mixed and respiratory.

ADductor dysphonia is when the vocal cords comes together suddenly while talking resulting in voice stops and effortful speech. Often, the voice chokes off. Counting from 80 to 89 is harder than counting from 60 to 69. Stressful situations often exacerbate the condition. ABductor dysphonia is when the vocal cords suddenly moves apart while talking resulting in loss of voice (breathy). These patients find counting from 60 to 69 harder than counting from 80 to 89. ABductor dysphonia is not as common as ADductor dysphonia.

Respiratory Spasmodic Dysphonia

Respiratory spasmodic dysphonia is when the vocal cords come together suddenly when inhaling. So the voice actually sounds quite normal... until the patient takes a breath in. During such inhalation, one can hear an audible choking sound.

A brief word about nomenclature. "Dysphonia" means hoarseness. As such, the term respiratory spasmodic dysphonia is not accurate. Rather, "dystonia" should be used instead which is defined as an abnormal muscle contraction.

In the video clip shown above, in the first half of the video, listen to the audio of a patient suffering from respiratory spasmodic dystonia talking. The latter half is a video of the patient's voicebox while vocalizing. Note that the vocal cords intermittently do not move apart when she is taking a breath in. Normally with breathing, the vocal cords should move apart to allow air to pass between the vocal cords.


Treatment is the same as for ADductor spasmodic dysphonia. Botox is injected into the vocal cords which reduces the spasms when she takes a breath in.

Watch a video of botox being injected.

Click here to read more about spasmodic dysphonia.

Dr. Chang performs botox injections for this disorder every Friday afternoon.
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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