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This information was reviewed and approved by J. Tod Olin, MD, MSCS (9/1/2017).

A detailed evaluation is needed to correctly diagnose vocal cord dysfunction (VCD).

The diagnosis will also help determine the most effective treatment of VCD or inducible laryngeal obstruction (ILO).

VCD/ILO diagnosis usually includes:

  • Exam: Your health care provider will complete a detailed medical history and physical exam.

  • Spirometry: Breathing tests like spirometry can be useful in diagnosing VCD/ILO. Breathing tests need to be done when you are having symptoms. When you aren’t having symptoms you may have a normal test result. Other conditions such as asthma may also affect your breathing test results.

  • LaryngoscopyThis test  allows your doctor to see inside the upper airway. Laryngoscopy can be useful in diagnosing VCD/ILO. This test needs to be done when you are having symptoms. Sometimes a laryngoscopy is performed at the same time that  triggers are given to help determine what causes VCD/ILO.

  • Continuous laryngoscopy during exercise (CLE): We are one of only a few centers in the world that can readily perform this test. It enables the doctor to see what is happening in  the upper airway during intense exercise. This test is used to evaluate VCD and exercise-induced laryngeal obstruction (EILO). National Jewish Health performs more CLE procedures than any other center in the world. We have performed this test in patients ages from 6 to 72.

  • Speech consultation: Speech therapy can also be useful in diagnosing the condition. As symptoms must be present during laryngoscopy or spirometry to accurately diagnose VCD, sometimes the inappropriate airway restriction is missed during testing because it wasn’t provoked. A speech-language pathologist who specializes in VCD can assess a patient’s history, symptoms and treatment response to determine whether VCD is present, while concurrently beginning therapy.

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