Bilateral recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy following anterior cervical surgery subsequent to contralateral apical lung radiotherapy

Timothy Woodacre, Nooshin Jahromi, Geraldine Goh, Thomas Clifton, David Dillon


Unilateral recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy is a potential complication of the anterior approach for cervical surgery. It is a rare complication of radiotherapy to the neck. Only one case has been reported following radiotherapy apical lung cancer. It can result in unilateral vocal cord paralysis.       We report a patient who demonstrated bilateral vocal cord paralysis immediately following right-sided anterior cervical surgery, with significant consequences, including aphonia, respiratory distress and subsequent takotsubo cardiomyopathy. She was diagnosed with acute, (temporary) post-operative right recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy, on the background of undetected and previously asymptomatic left recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy following radiotherapy for left apical lung cancer. The possibility of recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy should be considered in patients with previous apical lung cancer and/ or radiotherapy. Patents undergoing subsequent anterior cervical surgery should be considered for the appropriate precautions in the form of same-side surgery or pre-operative investigation for vocal cord paralysis.


Spinal Surgery; Cervical; Radiotherapy; Nerve Palsy

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