Survivability of vocal cord paralysis depends on the extent and severity of the damage to the vocal folds. In most cases, the disorder affects only a single vocal muscle, and can be resolved with therapy or surgery. If vocal fold muscles become injured at the same time – a rare occurrence – the damage could impair breathing to the extent that surviving vocal cord paralysis may require an emergency tracheotomy. Even if only one vocal fold is paralyzed, a person may experience severe choking while eating because food or drinks can enter the airways and lungs.
The risk factors for vocal cord paralysis include injury to the head, neck and chest; infections; tumors in the head and neck; stroke; use of a breathing tube; and some degenerative neurological diseases. Sometimes damage becomes permanent, but for most people, the prognosis for vocal cord paralysis is good with the nerves and muscles returning to normal.