Ipsilateral Vocal Cord Paralysis After Acute Anterior Ischemic Stroke

Author Department

Internal Medicine; Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Introduction: The vocal cord is innervated by the recurrent laryngeal nerve and the superior laryngeal nerve, which are branches of the vagus nerve. The nucleus ambiguous is a motor nucleus of the vagus nerve and it is located in the medulla. It receives supratentorial upper motor regulatory fibers. Commonly, this regulation is bilaterally represented in the brain. Less commonly, it is contralaterally represented. This case describes a rare presentation.

Case presentation: We present a female patient in her early sixties with a past medical history significant for hypertension who presented with acute right-sided weakness and expressive aphasia (National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale = 20). Computed tomography (CT)-head was unremarkable but she was outside the window for chemical thrombolytic therapy. CT-angiogram revealed occlusion of the left extracranial and intracranial internal carotid artery and, thus, she was deemed not a candidate for mechanical thrombectomy. CT-perfusion scans (Rapid software) showed a large penumbra within the respective vascular territory affected including the operculum and the insula. The core infarction was relatively small and located in the left basal ganglia. After inducing therapeutic hypertension, the patient's aphasia improved. Surprisingly, this unmasked a moderate to severe hypophonic voice. The patient underwent flexible fiberoptic laryngoscopy which showed a paralyzed left vocal cord but without signs of inflammation.

Conclusion: Our case is a rare case of transient ipsilateral vocal cord paralysis associated with anterior unilateral cerebral ischemia. The paralysis resolved with improvement of the cerebral ischemic penumbra.