One aspect of a Preventative Vocal Health Visit deserves special mention: the Baseline Videostroboscopy Exam. So, we’ve decided to write a dedicated blog post about it!
What exactly is a baseline videostroboscopy exam?
You may have already guessed from the name: it’s a videostroboscopy examination of the vocal cords that is performed BEFORE any issues arise, when your vocal cords are at their healthiest. It allows us to have a reference point for how your vocal cords look when they’re working the way we want them to.
Why is this important?
Well, it turns out that the vocal cords and the larynx (voice box) can look very different from one person to another. Vocal cords come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. And while there are general features you can find in common between one set of healthy vocal cords and another, there are many features unique to each set of vocal cords.
This can present a diagnostic challenge in very subtle cases of hoarseness or vocal issues, when the cause of voice problems is not very apparent. Many causes of hoarseness can be easily identified on videostroboscopy, such as nodules, cysts, polyps, vocal cord weakness (paralysis), or infections or tumors, but there are many other conditions that can be tricky to diagnose if you didn’t know how the vocal cords looked before the symptoms arose. These include things like laryngopharyngeal reflux and other types of chronic laryngitis, vocal cord atrophy, muscle tension dysphonia, and very subtle cases of vocal cord weakness.
Furthermore, sometimes we find something very obvious on the vocal cords, such as a polyp, but it may just so happen that this specific polyp was always there and was not really causing any voice issues. The only way to know for sure how to interpret trickier findings on videostroboscopy is to have a reference point from prior to the problem…which is where the Baseline Videostroboscopy Exam comes in!
I recommend a Baseline Videostroboscopy Exam for all people who use their voice professionally, and especially vocal performers. The state-of-the-art equipment we use allows the exam to be recorded, so we can always reference it down the line in case problems arise in the future. I also encourage my patients to take home a copy of the recording on their phone camera so that they have it available to show to any other voice specialist down the line in the event that they cannot come back to see me. In other words, your exam is yours to keep!