Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD)

Reviewed by Heather L. Hodges (Gustafson), MA, CCC-SLP, Julie J. Bergquist, CCC-SLP, MA, Kristina Johnston, MA, CCC-SLP

To understand vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) [or paradoxical vocal fold motion (PVFM)], it is helpful to understand how the vocal cords function. The vocal cords are located at the top of the windpipe (trachea) and vibrate from exhaled air to produce noise and voice. Breathing causes the vocal cords to open, allowing air to flow through the windpipe (trachea) and into the lungs. With VCD, the vocal cords close together, or constrict, during inhalation or exhalation. This leaves only a small opening for air to flow through the windpipe and causes asthma-like symptoms.


History of VCD

The discovery of VCD/PVFM is relatively new. It first appeared in medical literature in 1951 and was characterized as a symptom of "lying" by the patient. Through the years, VCD has had many names, including factitious asthma, mimicking asthma, irritable larynx and laryngeal dysfunction.

In 1983, a group of patients who were said to have "uncontrolled asthma", were seen at National Jewish Health for evaluation. A multidisciplinary team of medical professionals including pulmonologists, otolaryngologists, psychiatrists and speech-language pathologists were able to accurately identify the condition and provided treatment for what we now know as VCD.

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