What Is Vocal Cord Gel?

Posted on September 7, 2021

A raspy voice turns people off from what you're saying. Straining to make your voice heard when it feels weak and soft is also painful and frustrating.

There's a better way to handle voice loss due to immobilized or inhibited vocal cords. Vocal cord gel can reverse the symptoms of paralyzed vocal cords, and bring your voice back to what it once was.

But what is it? Let's take a closer look at the benefits, makeup, and process of vocal cord gel injections.

What Is Vocal Cord Gel Used For

Vocal cord gel is used to treat a variety of vocal cord health concerns. The gel is administered via a vocal cord injected as a filling agent to repair vocal cords when they're experiencing total or partial paralysis, age-related changes, and scars.

You may be experiencing these common symptoms due to muscle atrophy in the vocal cords typical of aging. You're also at risk for a raspy sounding voice or immobilized vocal cords if you are or were a heavy smoker. The scratchy voice many people associate with smoking can now be reversed thanks to the vocal cord injection procedure.

If you've received surgery to the head and neck such as thyroid surgery and a face or neck lift, you may still be experiencing the side effect of a weak or raspy voice. Vocal cord gel can help reverse that symptom.

It's also possible to injure and immobilize your vocal cords due to an injury caused by yelling, speaking incorrectly (such as with overuse of glottal sounds), singing incorrectly, having to frequently use a loud voice due to your job, or even an illness such as tetanus.

Whatever the cause of your vocal cord discomfort, vocal cord gel can be used to treat it and reverse some of the effects.

What Is Vocal Cord Gel Made From

Vocal cord injection material is a filling agent made from carboxymethyl cellulose or cellulose gum and cross-linked hyaluronic acid, body fat, collagen, or other approved substances. 

All of these substances fill and slightly enlarge the vocal cord so that it comes closer to the center of your voice box. This means that your vocal cords have to move less in order to achieve their goals of making sounds, coughing, and swallowing. This makes a world of difference when your vocal cords are too impaired to move very far on their own.

How Long Does the Vocal Cord Injection Procedure Take

Although the vocal cord injection procedure itself should not take very long, the entire process includes preparation beforehand and aftercare on your part.

For ten days before your procedure, limit the use of ibuprofen and other blood-thinning medications to prevent over bleeding after the injection. For pain management, you can use acetaminophen instead during that time. Do not eat or drink for three hours before your procedure, and be sure to tell your nurse about any medication allergies you may have.

The procedure itself is brief and done one of two ways. 

If the doctor chooses to do the injection through your mouth, he will first numb the back of your throat with a lidocaine spray which prevents the gag reflex. Then he will drip a numbing medication onto the vocal cords themselves. The last step is the injection which should only take a moment. And then you're done.

The other approach to vocal cord injection is through the skin of the neck. This is a slightly more complicated process, but also not a long procedure nor one that you will need to be asleep for. 

First, a small camera is sent down your throat through your nose to look at the voice box. Then the numbing medication is dripped onto your vocal cords. A thin needle, guided by the camera, is injected into your neck and vocal cords where the filler will be placed.

After Care

For the first hour following your procedure, you should not eat or drink because the numbing medication inhibits your ability to swallow. Once, that hour is up you can return to eating as normal.

You may discover some blood in your mucus. This is fine and to be expected, but try to avoid coughing or clearing your throat as this can irritate the injected tissue. Do not smoke because it will result in more mucus which will need to be expelled.

If you experience throat pain after the numbing medication ceases to be effective, you can treat it with acetaminophen. Drink plenty of liquids and do not gargle.

For about 2-3 days you should go on voice rest after vocal cord injection. This means you should not speak or whisper. Whispering actually strains your voice even more than talking.

During vocal cord injection recovery time, when you do begin talking again your voice at first may sound worse than it did before. This is because it recently went through the procedure, but this will go away with time, and your voice will sound much better than it did before.

How Long Do Vocal Cord Injections Last

The longevity of your vocal cord injection is largely dependent on the kind you get

Teflon is a permanent kind of injection, but it carries more risks than temporary injections which can result in the permanent loss of your voice. For this reason, many doctors now prefer to offer regular treatment with temporary injections rather than permanent options.

Gelfoam, collagen, CaHA, and some other temporary gels last for between two and twelve months depending on the patient. However, more research is needed and some "temporary" options end up working as a permanent solution. 

However long your injection lasts, ultimately the procedure is noninvasive and quick enough that you can repeatedly get it as needed and keep your voice in tip-top shape.

Vocal Cord Injection Side Effects

As with any medical procedure, there are side effects and risks to watch out for. The human body is a fickle thing, and not every patient responds to treatment in the same way. However, your doctor should come up with a treatment plan that is most likely to work for you and can help you keep an eye out for complications and vocal cord gel injection side effects. Let's take a look at some common ones.

Bleeding

As mentioned before, it's natural to find some blood in your mucus following your procedure. However, if the bleeding is excessive or not combined with mucus, you should speak to your doctor.

Infection

Any procedure involving a puncture is at risk of infection. The needle or materials themselves could cause an infection, but if you are at risk or experiencing an infection your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic.

Discomfort

It's likely that you will feel some discomfort (but no pain) during the procedure. Most patients describe the sensation as pressure. Valium can be taken before your appointment to help. This may eventually develop into pain during the recovery which can be treated with acetaminophen. 

Difficulty Breathing

Your vocal cords are going to be filled, and you may also experience swelling after the procedure. This can make breathing feel a little more laboured than usual. If the swelling is significant, your doctor may prescribe a steroid to help with breathing. 

However, if you ever feel like you are not getting enough oxygen and are likely to pass out, you should seek emergency medical services immediately.

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Does My Provincial Health Care Plan Cover the Procedure?

Whether or not your provincial health care plan will cover vocal cord gel injections depends largely on what province you hail from. Although most cover physician visits and surgery, if you plan on receiving a vocal cord gel that hasn't been approved yet by the government and is still in its developmental stages, you may have more difficulty finding coverage.

This is why most provincial health care plans recommend having supplemental insurance as well. Make sure that you have a professional compare rates and services covered by provincial and supplementary insurance to be sure that you're getting the best deal and the best treatment. 

Communicate the specific services you'd like to have covered by your provider especially if you have specific health needs such as vocal cord services.

Using Vocal Cord Gel to Get Your Voice Back

Vocal cord gel injections can transform your voice from the pained, raspy sound you've been used to back to the voice you used to have. Whether your vocal cord problems were caused by injury, smoking, illness, or just aging, regular injections could be the answer for you.

Discover how to get the best coverage on your procedure with a health insurance quote today!

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