Relationship of vocal fold atrophy to swallowing safety and cough function in Parkinson's disease

Yin Yiu, James A. Curtis, Sarah E. Perry, Michelle S. Troche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objectives: When swallowing function is compromised in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), cough plays a crucial role in clearing the airway and preventing pulmonary complications. The aim of this study was to determine the influence of vocal fold atrophy severity as measured by the bowing index (BI) on airway protection in PD. Methods: Thirty participants with PD completed measures of voluntary and reflex cough. Flexible laryngoscopy with endoscopic evaluation of swallowing allowed for measurement of BI using ImageJ software. Swallowing safety was scored on the Penetration-Aspiration Scale (PAS). Regression and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analyses were performed to test our study aim. Results: Twenty-four of 30 participants had some degree of vocal fold atrophy (BI >0). When controlling for age, disease duration did not significantly influence BI. BI was not predictive of any sensorimotor parameters of cough including measures of cough airflow, reflex cough threshold, or urge to cough. BI discriminated participants with near-normal (PAS 1–3) swallowing safety from participants with impaired (PAS 4–8) swallowing safety (P =.01, sensitivity: 87.0%, specificity: 71.4%, cutoff value BI >4.6). Conclusion: Vocal fold atrophy is a potential factor contributing to poor swallowing safety in PD. BI was not associated with cough function in this PD cohort, contrary to prior studies that have shown improved cough measures after vocal fold augmentation. Vocal fold atrophy in PD remains an important area of study as a targetable intervention for patients with airway protective dysfunction. Future studies should include measures of glottic closure during vocal fold adduction. Level of Evidence: Level 3 Laryngoscope, 130:303–308, 2020.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-308
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Parkinson's disease
  • Vocal fold atrophy
  • airway protective mechanisms
  • bowing index
  • dysphagia
  • dystussia
  • vocal fold bowing
  • Deglutition Disorders/etiology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Male
  • Atrophy/complications
  • Deglutition
  • Cough/etiology
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Parkinson Disease/complications
  • Female
  • Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vocal Cords/pathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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