Same Technology that Saved Voice of Aerosmith Singer Steven Tyler
Several times a month, Catherine Garoufalis' chronic laryngitis would get so bad she couldn't even answer the phone.
"I had no voice whatsoever," said Garoufalis, a mother of four who lives in Naperville. "It was completely life altering--just horrible."
Dr. Lee Akst of Loyola University Hospital used a new voice-saving laser to give Garoufalis her voice back.
Since undergoing surgery last fall, Garoufalis has not had a single episode of hoarseness Akst treated Garoufalis with the same laser technology that saved the voice and career of rock star Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith.
Most cases of hoarseness go away within two weeks. But chronic hoarseness is an occupational hazard of politicians, singers, salespeople, teachers, telemarketers, disc jockeys and anyone else who uses their voice a lot. However, if the hoarseness does not go away by itself, it might mean the cause is more complicated than a simple cold or respiratory infection. Possible causes of hoarseness that last longer than 2 weeks include precancerous thickening of vocal cord tissue; abnormal blood vessels in the vocal cords and growths called papillomas, nodules and polyps.
The traditional treatment is to cut away the problem tissue with surgical instruments or a hot laser. But cutting with instruments can leave scar tissue, and traditional lasers can cause heat damage and scarring to surrounding tissue, resulting in permanent hoarseness.
Akst uses a new potassium-titanyl-phosphate laser to help cut away growths. It's more precise than traditional lasers, and minimizes heat damage to surrounding tissue.
"It lets you do things in much less traumatic fashion," Akst said. "It limits scarring, and you get better voice outcomes." The outpatient surgery lasts about 1Â½ hours and requires general anesthesia. The patient may have a mild sore throat for a couple of days, and should not talk during the first week after surgery.
As with any vocal cord surgery, there's a small risk a patient's voice could get worse instead of better. There's also a possibility of tongue numbness or a change in taste, but this usually is temporary, Akst said.
Akst is an ear-nose-throat surgeon who specializes in voice disorders. He is an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Loyola University Chicago's Stritch School of Medicine. Akst trained under Dr. Steven Zeitels of Massachusetts General Hospital. Zeitels developed the technology and treated the Aerosmith singer.
Akst treated Garoufalis by using the voice-saving laser to reduce an enlarged blood vessel in her vocal cord. Afterward, Garoufalis felt mild throat discomfort for a few days. After one week, she was able to speak normally for the first time in a year.
"It's the best thing I ever did," she said.