Vocal cord movement: can it be accurately graded?

Douglas, CM and Menon, R and Montgomery, J and Townsley, R and Hilmi, O and Buchanan, MA and Robertson, S and Petropoulakis, L and Soraghan, JJ and Lakany, H and Mackenzie, K (2022) Vocal cord movement: can it be accurately graded? Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 106 (1). pp. 36-40. ISSN 0035-8843 (https://doi.org/10.1308/rcsann.2022.0091)

[thumbnail of douglas-et-al-2022-vocal-cord-movement-can-it-be-accurately-graded]
Text. Filename: douglas-et-al-2022-vocal-cord-movement-can-it-be-accurately-graded.pdf
Final Published Version
License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 logo

Download (154kB)| Preview


Introduction Flexible nasendoscopy (FNE) is the principal assessment method for vocal cord movement. Because the procedure is inherently subjective it may not be possible for clinicians to grade the degree of vocal cord movement reliably. The aim of this study was to assess the accuracy and consistency of grading vocal cord movement as viewed via FNE. Methods Thirty FNE videos, without sound or clinical information, were assessed by six consultant head and neck surgeons. The surgeons were asked to assess and grade right and left vocal cord movement independently, based on a five-category scale. This process was repeated three times on separate occasions. Agreement and reliability were assessed. Results Mean overall observed inter-rater agreement was 67.7% (sd 1.9) with the five-category scale, increasing to 91.4% (sd 1.9) when a three-category scale was derived. Mean overall observed intra-rater agreement was 78.3% (sd 9.7) for five categories, increasing to 93.1% (sd 3.3) for three categories. Discriminating vocal cord motion was less reliable using the five-category scale (k = 0.52) than with the three-category scale (k = 0.68). Conclusions This study demonstrates quantitatively that it is challenging to accurately and consistently grade subtle differences in vocal cord movement, as proven by the reduced agreement and reliability when using a five-point scale instead of a three-point scale. The study highlights the need for an objective measure to help in the assessment of vocal cord movement.