Voice Care Specialist
“Nodule” is a word that can strike fear into a singer. These benign vocal-fold growths can occur after overuse of the voice and, as a result, mar its pure, clear tone.
“It’s your only set of vocal folds – and unlike the flute or a guitar, you can’t trade it in or upgrade it 10 years down the road.”
Not to worry, says Lesley Childs, M.D., an Associate Professor of Laryngology, Neurolaryngology, and Professional Voice at UT Southwestern’s Clinical Center for Voice Care. “People think of nodules as a career-ending diagnosis, and it’s not,” she says. “The truth of the matter is, nodules are reversible with therapy.”
Nodules are just one of the problems that bring voice-dependent professionals to see the Center’s specialized laryngologists and therapists. Overuse of the voice can also, for example, cause polyps and cysts, while surgery and viruses can lead to vocal-fold paralysis. “I see vocal athletes,” says Dr. Childs. “Our speech therapists are physical therapists for the vocal folds.”
In addition to patient care, Dr. Childs contributes to her field, having written numerous book chapters and peer-reviewed articles on laryngology, and she has spoken at meetings of laryngologists and musicians alike.
To diagnose voice problems, Dr. Childs uses state-of-the-art videostroboscopy, which shows freeze frames of the vocal folds in action. Treatments she offers include specialized voice therapy, microsurgery, Botox injections for spasmodic dysphonia, and laser surgery, many of which can be done in the office. “People are completely awake – they don’t have to undergo a general anesthetic, and they don’t have to have a driver, so they have much less downtime,” Dr. Childs says of in-office procedures.
But, as with nodules, many voice problems resolve with therapy alone. “Our mantra as laryngologists is to operate on the vocal cords as a last resort,” she says. “Even if the growth doesn’t go away with speech therapy, it will at least get smaller. That allows a much less invasive surgical procedure, with less risk of permanent hoarseness from scarring.”