Surgical management of airway dysfunction in parkinson's disease compared with parkinson-plus syndromes

Catherine F. Sinclair, Lowell E. Gurey, Mitchell F. Brin, Celia Stewart, Andrew Blitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objectives: We sought to compare the laryngeal symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD) with those of multiple system atrophy (MSA), a Parkinson-plus syndrome; to review the differences in surgical management of upper airway dysfunction between patients with PD and those with MSA; and to present a treatment algorithm for management of upper airway disorders in patients with PD and MSA. Methods: We analyzed the airway manifestations of each disease, including clinical and physiological test results and management outcomes, in a case series of 30 patients (24 with PD and 6 with MSA). Results: Vocal fold atrophy causing bowing with a midfold glottic gap was common in patients with PD. One third of patients with PD underwent vocal fold augmentation with noticeable improvement in vocal volume and phonation time. Tracheostomy was required for life-threatening sleep apnea in 50% of the patients with MSA. Systemic medications and speech therapy were integral components of the management regimen. Conclusions: Surgical management of laryngeal disorders in patients with PD should focus on restoring bulk to atrophic vocal folds to minimize glottic gaps, thus improving vocalization efficiency even in the presence of impaired respiratory effort. Conversely, the autonomic dysfunction that characterizes MSA results in upper airway obstruction, and thus surgical management focuses primarily on maintaining an adequate airway, which frequently necessitates tracheostomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-298
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Airway
  • Dysphagia
  • Laryngology
  • Neurolaryngology
  • Parkinson'S Disease
  • Voice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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