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Archive for Tuesday, November 25, 1997

SPECIAL SCOPE REVEALS VOCAL WOES

November 25, 1997

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New equipment at Lawrence Memorial Hospital helps doctors quickly find the cause of problem vocal cords.

Open wide, here comes the strobe light.

A new tool at Lawrence Memorial Hospital is helping doctors get to the bottom of throat and vocal cord problems.

The machine, a laryngeal video stroboscope, enables doctors to have a clear picture of problems that are difficult to see with regular lights.

"This an intense light source with a telescope that magnifies and provides a bright view of vocal cords," said Dr. Lee Reussner of Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates, who has used the machine with several patients.

Here's how it works: A patient's mouth is first numbed with a special spray.

The stroboscope is then placed down the person's throat. The scope has a strobe light that can be tuned to match the frequency of vocal cords.

Because vocal cords move at 100 to 1,000 times per second when a person is talking or singing, it is difficult to see whether the cords are moving in a normal way.

As the patient says "ahh" in various frequencies, the strobe light on the scope can be put in sync with the vibrations of the vocal cords, making the cords appear to be still, even though they are moving.

The strobe light also can be put slightly out of phase to make the vocal cords appear to move in slow motion.

By observing the vocal cords in this manner, Reussner said, doctors are able to tell almost immediately if there is a problem.

"Usually it just takes one time" on the machine, said Dr. Stephen Segebrecht, another physician who has used it. "We can tell right away if there is a problem."

Polyps or other abnormalities that can affect vocal cords can then be pinpointed, and doctors can judge whether surgery is required.

Vocal cords and other areas of the throat are displayed on video monitors while the scope is in use.

A computer, VCR and camera attached to the scope also enable doctors to produce videos and still photographs of the vocal movements.

LMH, which acquired the machine in August, is one of only a handful of hospitals in the area with such a device, doctors said.

Peggy Deseure, a 40-year-old editor for a Kansas City, Kan., community newspaper, was one of the first patients to use the new machine.

She started having voice problems in April.

"I couldn't sing, I couldn't talk, I couldn't do anything," she said.

She had surgery in September after an exam with the machine in August.

"I can't tell you what a difference (the machine) made. When (Reussner) used the stroboscope he could see a polyp that he couldn't see with another scope.

"They found it immediately," she said. "I am so grateful they did. My voice is like night and day. I wouldn't be able to sing or do a lot of other things. It's just a miracle."

The doctors aren't sure how many people could be helped by the machine, but they say the numbers are high.

"There are a tremendous amount of people with vocal problems," Reussner said. "Nearly everyone who does a lot of talking or singing has problems at some point."

-- Mike Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is dekker@ljworld.com.

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