What to Expect During a Vocal Cord Dysfunction Visit at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

A child with discomfort while breathing and shortness of breath might have a problem with their vocal cords. Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) is a condition where the vocal cords close when someone breathes in, instead of opening up.

At our VCD Center at UPMC Children's Hospital, a diverse team of experts comes together to diagnose and treat VCD.

Here's what you can expect before, during, and after your child's first visit to our center.

Contact the Vocal Cord Dysfunction Center

To learn more or book an appointment for your child's VCD, call 412-692-9877.

Before Your Child's Visit to the VCD Center

In most cases, doctors refer their patients to us when they suspect VCD.

You can also call us at 412-692-5460 to book an appointment if you think your child may have VCD.

We accept most insurances but suggest you call your health plan to confirm they will cover our services.

Before your visit, keep a journal of your child's episodes with breathing troubles, including what happened before them. This can help the team when discussing possible triggers with you and your child.

During Your Child's Visit for Vocal Cord Dysfunction Care

Your first visit could be between one and four hours, depending on your child's symptoms and test results.

As many people travel hours for care at our center, we aim to fit all your child's consults in the same visit. We can also schedule part of your visit for another day if that works better for you.

During your visit, your child will see our ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor who will:

  • Conduct a routine exam, looking into your child's nose and throat.
  • Check your child's airway with flexible laryngoscopy.

During laryngoscopy, the doctor will:

  • First place cream inside your child's nose to numb the area.
  • Move a thin, flexible scope through the nostril and down the throat, to see down the airway.
  • Watch the vocal cords as your child breathes, to see how they function.
  • Look for any problems in the voice box or airway that could be causing your child's symptoms.

Often, your child's ENT doctor can diagnose VCD after this test.

If the diagnosis isn't clear and exercise triggers your child's symptoms, we will order n pulmonary function test.

The lung doctor will ask your child to breathe into a machine, before and after about 10 minutes of exercise.

This test measures the volume and rate of flow of the breath.

It also helps tell the difference between VCD and asthma since exercise can cause both. But VCD mostly affects breathing in, while asthma usually affects breathing out.

If we diagnose your child with VCD, a speech therapist will train you and your child in how to manage the condition. The speech therapist will teach your child step-by-step breathing exercises that relax the vocal cords and control VCD symptoms.

Lastly, our team will:

  • Give you and your child guidance on safe exercising, managing stress, and avoiding VCD triggers.
  • Create a treatment plan for other conditions that can worsen VCD, such as allergies or GERD.

After Your Child's Visit to the VCD Center

If your child has VCD, they'll routinely meet with a speech therapist, who will coach them through breathing exercises.

After a few months, most kids see major improvement and can manage VCD on their own.

If we diagnose your child with asthma or another condition, we'll refer you to the right place for care.

Make Your Child's Appointment for VCD Care

If your child has VCD symptoms, call our center at 412-692-5460 to book an appointment.