Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD)

Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD) occurs when the vocal cords come together during inhalation when they should be open or apart. Pediatric speech-language pathologists evaluate and treat children from birth to age 21 diagnosed with vocal cord dysfunction. VCD may cause a child to:

  • Feel shortness of breath and chest tightness
  • Have noisy breathing (stridor) and a hoarse vocal quality when speaking

These symptoms often develop during exercise.

Evaluation

Proper evaluation and diagnosis of VCD is important as it is often misdiagnosed as asthma. The evaluation and diagnosis of VCD includes:

Treatment

Once a VCD diagnosis is confirmed, our speech-language pathologists provide the following treatments:

  • Speech therapy: Your child may come to three or four speech therapy sessions to learn techniques to control VCD. One of our speech pathologists will teach your child breathing techniques to control VCD while your child is exercising or when symptoms occur. Relaxation techniques are also taught to help relax the muscles of the throat.
  • Home program: We will design a home program so your child can practice the breathing techniques several times throughout the day for better results when symptoms occur.
  • Biofeedback: We may also include biofeedback as part of your child’s treatment plan. First, your child will exercise to bring on his or her VCD symptoms. Next, a pediatric ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor will perform a laryngoscopy to look at the back of your child’s throat, voice box (larynx) and vocal cords. During the laryngoscopy, a speech-language pathologist will teach your child breathing techniques to control VCD. Your child can see the vocal cords opening while breathing and performing the breathing techniques.

To make an appointment to have your child evaluated for VCD, please contact Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) services.