Imagine the effect on your life if you lost the ability to
communicate properly by speech. If your voice became so weak, quiet
and breathy that it became too tiring to speak and you couldn't
even use the telephone.
This condition is known as vocal cord palsy and is caused when
one side of the larynx stops functioning and the weakened cord
allows air to escape. There are many reasons for this happening and
some patients with cancer of the lungs or neck will develop vocal
cord palsy, however this is a condition that can happen on its own,
to anyone, at any time.
Until recently patients in and around the Darlington area had to
travel to James Cook University Hospital for a surgical procedure
to treat this condition.
However, ENT Consultant with County Durham and Darlington NHS
Foundation Trust, Mr. Shane Lester has introduced a new treatment
at Darlington Memorial Hospital which will see patients being
treated locally. With the purchase of new equipment in conjunction
with the Friends of Darlington Memorial Hospital about half of
these patients may be treated as an outpatient without the need for
a general anesthetic.
Mr Lester said: "Previously patients with vocal cord palsy would
be referred to James Cook Hospital for treatment which would
involve an open procedure including a surgical incision and an
overnight stay. However, there is an alterative procedure which
would be suitable for a large number of these patients - vocal cord
injections, some of which can be performed under local anaesthetic
and we are now in a position to launch this service at Darlington
"Suitable patients would be treated in an outpatient setting,
under a local anesthetic. We deliver the injection of Radiesse
directly into the vocal cord. This has become possible thanks to
the generosity of the Friends of Darlington Memorial Hospital and
the purchase of state of the art digital video-scope equipment. The
injection repositions the weak cord helping strengthen the voice.
The patient is then able to recover faster and going home after
only 2 hours observation.
"Patients who are not suitable for the vocal cord injections
under local anesthetic will still be able to be treated at
Darlington Memorial Hospital. These treatments really make a
difference to a patient's quality of life as it becomes easier for
the patient to speak. We expect to be treating approximately 16
patients a year in total at Darlington.
"We must really thank the Friends of Darlington Hospital for
their support and generous donation which has enabled us to fund
the state of the art equipment required to set up this service. The
equipment will also allow advanced diagnosis and treatment of other
voice conditions, not previously possible locally. This will be
provided through a "gold standard" Joint Voice Clinic where Mr.
Lester and Mrs. Jaclyn Morton (clinical lead Speech and Language
Therapist), will be running a "see and treat" clinic. Patients will
be assessed and offered Voice Therapy at the same sitting, thereby
cutting out unnecessary and distressing waiting times for
"Finally, the equipment will also be available to help Head and
Neck cancer patients come to terms with their disease and show them
when they have been cured."
The hospital has been able to invest in the latest Xion digital
videolaryngoscopy and stroboscopy needed to launch this service in
Darlington thanks to the support of the Friends of Darlington
The Friends donated £35,000 towards the cost of the equipment
which enables clinicians to take sharp images and video of the
larynx through an endoscopic procedure with a camera. A flash light
is used to freeze the fast moving larynx to produce the best
quality images and the equipment also enables extra information
about the vibration of the larynx.
Alan Charlton, Chairman of the Friends of Darlington
Memorial Hospital: "When Mr. Lester brought this project to me our
funding committee was immediately interested as the concept of
enabling people with lung cancer to improve their quality of life
by recovering the ability to speak falls into "The Friends"
objectives of providing additional patient comfort and care. We
have been pleased to provide funding for the equipment and would
thank the people who have helped us with their
It is expected that the first local anaesthetic vocal cord
injection procedure will be carried out in February next
'As I was very, very nervous, I must have been the worst patient
ever and they were brilliant with me and I can't thank them enough
- could you please pass on my sincere thanks.'
Patient, Hysteroscopy Unit, Chester-le-Street Community