Vocal cord paralysis resulting from neck injections in the intravenous drug use population

The Laryngoscope
R P HillstromK A McCarroll


Intravenous drug use patients present to the head and neck surgeon when injections are directed "in the pocket," or more appropriately, toward the internal jugular vein in the neck. The more common complications of this practice include the development of cellulitis, abscess, and venous thrombophlebitis and, potentially, pulmonary embolism and pseudoaneurysm of the carotid and subclavian arteries. Vocal cord paralysis as a result of neck injection in the intravenous drug-using population is rarely described, and a review of the literature has yielded only two reports addressing this uncommon phenomenon. During a 7 1/2-year period between October 1981 and June 1989, nine patients presented to Detroit Medical Center with hoarseness, upper-airway obstruction, or both following the injection of heroin or related substances into the neck. Otolaryngologic evaluation demonstrated unilateral or bilateral vocal cord paralysis coincident with recent neck injections. The clinical signs and symptoms, location of the injections, acute management, and subsequent complications are catalogued. Acute management of these patients consisted of airway assurance via tracheotomies when indicated and observation for the development of cellulitis, abs...Continue Reading


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