Do children need help with their voice after surgery to the windpipe? | Children's Charity

Do children need help with their voice after surgery to the windpipe?

This research was completed on 31 December 2015

Children who’ve had surgery to the windpipe because of a condition called subglottic stenosis, or SGS, may one day benefit from research by Dr Wendy Cohen, of Glasgow’s University of Strathclyde and Mr David Wynne from Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children. Evidence suggests that some of these children experience vocal problems while they’re growing up, which can adversely affect learning and quality of life, but relatively little is known about this. Dr Cohen and Mr Wynne aim to improve understanding. This work could enable children to access treatment that strengthens their voice and improves their quality of life.

How are babies’ lives affected now?

Babies with SGS have an abnormally narrow windpipe in the area near the vocal cords. Some babies are born with SGS, but more often it results from damage caused by the use of breathing tubes in babies who need them.

“Some babies with SGS very quickly develop significant breathing difficulties and need urgent surgery,” says Dr Cohen. “They might have a temporary tracheostomy, which allows them to breathe through a hole created in the neck, followed by surgery to reconstruct the windpipe.”

“Two children who had surgery for SGS as babies contacted our clinic recently seeking advice about problems with their voices,” continues Dr Cohen. “Treatment successfully improved both their vocal ability and their wellbeing. It’s possible that other children need help too, but relatively little is known about how children’s vocal ability is affected during the years after surgery for SGS.”

A better understanding is needed urgently. Vocal problems can adversely affect children’s learning and quality of life.

How could this research help?

“We hope to study around 40 children who had surgery for SGS when they were younger to find out whether they’ve been experiencing problems with their voice while they’ve been growing up,” says Dr Cohen.

The team’s findings could enable doctors to tell parents more about how their child’s voice might be affected in the future if they need surgery for SGS. The findings will also help when planning children’s care.

“Growing up with a weak voice can affect children’s self-esteem and their social interactions, so if any of the children who take part in our study would like help with their vocal abilities, then we may be able to refer them for treatment,” says Dr Cohen. “Speech and language therapists, and ear, nose and throat teams, may be able to help improve the children’s vocal abilities, something that could increase the children’s overall quality of life.”


Project LeaderDr Wendy M M Cohen PhD PGCert BSc (Hons) MRCSLT
LocationSchool of Psychological Sciences and Health, University of Strathclyde, Ear Nose and Throat Department, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow
Duration6 months
Grant awarded21 November 2014
Start date4 March 2015
End date31 December 2015
Grant amount£11,818.00
Grant codeGN2310

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