Your thyroid cartilage plays an important role in how your voice is produced, the appearance of your throat, and it can affect the way you breathe and eat.
In this article:
- Thyroid Cartilage Anatomy
- What Is the Thyroid Cartilage Function?
- What Is a Thyroid Cartilage Reduction?
- What Happens in the Surgery?
- How Should You Prepare for Thyroid Cartilage Reduction?
- What Are the Side Effects after the Procedure?
- What Is a Thyroid Cartilage Fracture?
- What Are the Symptoms of Laryngeal Trauma?
- What Are Medical and Surgical Treatments for Laryngeal Trauma?
- What Are Other Thyroid Cartilage Problems?
Important Things to Know About the Thyroid Cartilage
Thyroid Cartilage Anatomy
The thyroid cartilage is the largest cartilage within your voice box and it houses your vocal cords. It makes up your Adam’s apple which is a lot more visible in males.
If you look at the thyroid cartilage anatomy, you’ll notice that it’s made up of two laminae or thin plates that reach to the sides of your throat. The Adam’s apple is formed where these two plates connect and form a protrusion out of the middle of the throat.
The thyroid cartilage is an important part of the larynx or voice box which makes it susceptible to the same diseases and problems. It’s one of the three main parts of the larynx that helps produce vibrations and its positioning can affect the airways.
What Is the Thyroid Cartilage Function?
Despite it being called the thyroid cartilage, it has nothing to do with the thyroid or its function. This cartilage is responsible for giving the vocal cords support and protection. It also plays a role in the production of your voice because the larynx vibrates against it to produce sound.
The larynx produces sounds by acting on skeletal structures and this cartilage. This produces the vibrations which make up human sounds and speech. The angle of this cartilage is also responsible for the pitch of your voice.
What Is a Thyroid Cartilage Reduction?
Thyroid cartilage reduction or chondrolaryngoplasty is a procedure to reduce the size and visibility of the Adam’s apple. It is often a requested procedure by transwomen to supplement their gender-affirming surgery and facial feminization surgery.
What Happens in the Surgery?
It is an outpatient surgery and performed while the patient is under general anesthesia. When the patient is ready, a small incision is made along an existing crease on the patient’s neck or under the chin to hide the scar.
After the incision, the surgeons will separate the vertical muscles to expose the cartilage plats for surgery. They will, then, shave the plates to reduce its size.
How Should You Prepare for Thyroid Cartilage Reduction?
Days or even weeks before the procedure, the doctor will give you instructions on how to prepare for the surgery. The doctor will tell you if you need to make some changes in your diet as well as what supplements and medications to avoid.
You will also be advised to stop smoking or using tobacco 6 weeks before the surgery. Aspirin is a type of medication you can not take 14 days before and after the procedure, depending on the doctor’s advice.
What Are the Side Effects after the Procedure?
After the surgery you may experience temporary symptoms as the anesthesia starts to wear off:
- soreness around the throat
- sickness and nausea
The swelling around the cartilage is the most common symptom and can last for several weeks. The procedure will also leave a scar on the neck which can fade after a year.
What Is a Thyroid Cartilage Fracture?
An isolated fracture of the thyroid cartilage is rare and is often due to sports accidents or horseplay. It is often caused by blunt trauma such as a punch or strangulation. The fracture can also extend to other parts of the larynx.
What Are the Symptoms of Laryngeal Trauma?
A fracture in this cartilage is a type of laryngeal trauma and it can compromise your airways and cause various symptoms:
- neck pain
- pitch and voice change
- pain when swallowing
- shortness of breath
- tenderness around the upper throat
What Are Medical and Surgical Treatments for Laryngeal Trauma?
For mild fractures or tears about 1-2 cm, there is no need for surgery. The patient may be recommended to medical treatments that include protection of the lower airway, ventilation, and phonation. This medical treatment aims to bring the cartilage’s condition back to its pre-injury state.
A tracheotomy or an incision in the windpipe is only needed if the patient is having trouble breathing. This first aid procedure will clear the airway caused by the fractured cartilage.
What Are Other Thyroid Cartilage Problems?
1. Superior Thyroid Cornu Syndrome
The superior thyroid cornu or horn is the upper part of the cartilage where lateral ligaments are attached. The syndrome is characterized by the displacement of the horn which can obstruct the airway and cause cervical dysphagia and throat pain.
It is diagnosed using a laryngoscopy and tomography scan. The most effective and common treatment is a surgical resection of the affected part of the horn.
2. Larynx Deep Positioning
Larynx deep positioning (LDP) is the stiffening of the muscles around the throat, hyoid bone, cricoid cartilage, and thyroid cartilage. If your thyroid cartilage moves side to side, it may be an indicator of LDP. Other symptoms of LDP include:
- shortness of breath
- difficulty swallowing
- hearing grinding sounds when you swallow
- feeling pressure around the throat
LDP is not a disease but it can affect how your voice sounds. A doctor may advise you to wait for this condition to resolve itself or you can manage this condition with alternatives like meditation, topical medicine, and oriental medicine.
3. Thyroglossal Cysts
These types of cysts are often detected as hyoid bone or thyroid cartilage lumps. This fibrous cyst can be mistaken as the Adam’s apple because it presents itself as an irregular lump made up of leftover cells from the formation of the thyroid gland.
It is a congenital disease that can lead to infection if left untreated. The most effective type of treatment is the Sistrunk procedure which involves:
- creating an incision along the lump
- resection of the fibrous cyst
- draining the cyst
- closure by sewing
Learn the common name for thyroid cartilage by watching this quick video from atunakai4 atunakai4:
If you notice abnormal lumps or are having difficulty swallowing and breathing, seek medical attention right away. Prolonging any problems with your thyroid cartilage and overall voicebox may worsen and lead to permanent damage.
Do you have more questions about this part of the thyroid? Share them with us in the comments section below!
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