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Throat

UT Health's board-certified ENT specialists provide complete ear services for all ages. From diagnosis, to medical and surgical treatments, our mission is to provide the highest quality care for all your ENT needs.

To learn more about commonly treated conditions and procedures, click the boxes below.

A sore throat is pain, scratchiness or irritation of the throat that often worsens when you swallow. The most common cause of a sore throat (pharyngitis) is a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu. A sore throat caused by a virus resolves on its own.

Strep throat (streptococcal infection), a less common type of sore throat caused by bacteria, requires treatment with antibiotics to prevent complications. Other less common causes of sore throat might require more complex treatment.

What is tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils, two oval-shaped pads of tissue at the back of the throat — one tonsil on each side. Signs and symptoms of tonsillitis include swollen tonsils, sore throat, difficulty swallowing and tender lymph nodes on the sides of the neck.

What causes tonsillitis?

Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by infection with a common virus, but bacterial infections also may cause tonsillitis.

Because appropriate treatment for tonsillitis depends on the cause, it's important to get a prompt and accurate diagnosis. Surgery to remove tonsils, once a common procedure to treat tonsillitis, is usually performed only when bacterial tonsillitis occurs frequently, doesn't respond to other treatments or causes serious complications.

Zenker's diverticulum is a rare condition that typically affects older adults. It occurs when a pouch of tissue forms where the pharynx meets the esophagus. Mild forms of Zenker's diverticulum may not require treatment. Treatment for moderate to severe forms of Zenker's diverticulum typically involves surgery.

What causes snoring and obstructive sleep apnea? 

Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are caused by the development of resistance to airflow in the upper airways during sleep. As the resistance to airflow increases breathing is disrupted and obstructive sleep apnea develops. The first thing to happen is that the tissues in the throat start to vibrate causing snoring.

How can snoring and obstructive sleep apnea be treated?

Snoring can be treated in the office with laser assisted uvuloplasty (LAUP), injection snoreplasty, or radiofrequency palatoplasty. Inspire Sleep Apnea Innovation is another treatment option that works inside your body to treat the roodt cause of sleep apnea with the click of a button.

What are the effects of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea?

The disruption in sleep can lead to being tired during the day but more importantly contribute to the development of high blood pressure, heart attack and heart failure.

What is Inspire Sleep Apnea Innovation?

Inspire is the only Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved obstructive sleep apnea treatment that works inside your body to treat the root cause of sleep apnea with the click of a button. Inspire is a small device that is surgically inserted just under the skin during an outpatient procedure. This new treatment option helps sleep apnea patients who cannot use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Inspire allows you to breathe normally, without a CPAP mask, hose or machine.

How does Inspire Sleep Apnea Innovation work?

Inspire delivers gentle stimulation to key airway muscles helping keep the airway open for better breathing during sleep. The Inspire system is controlled by a small handheld sleep remote. The user turns on the device with the sleep remote before going to sleep and turns it off upon awakening.

You may be a candidate for Inspire if:
  • You have moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea.
  • You are unable to use or get consistent benefit from CPAP.
  • You are not significantly obese.
  • You are over the age of 22.

Will Inspire help with snoring?

A significant decrease in snoring has been found as a secondary effect of the Inspire device. Ninety percent of bed partners report no or soft snoring by their partner.

If you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, ask your health care provider for a referral to UT Health East Texas or call 903-531-8079 to begin the referral process.

Providers for Inspire Sleep Apnea Innovation

What is vocal cord paralysis?

Vocal cord paralysis can be either unilateral (one side) or bilateral (both sides). Luckily bilateral vocal cord paralysis is relatively uncommon, because it leads to the vocal cords being in the midline (adducted) and difficulty breathing. It often requires tracheostomy and surgery to partially remove the vocal cord to have the tracheostomy tube removed. Unilateral vocal cord paralysis is much more common.

Breathing is not a problem, but the paralyzed vocal cord usually winds up in a lateral position (paramedian or fully abducted), so the un-paralyzed vocal cord cannot contact it and this leads to a weak and breathy voice. More importantly, the patient might have a weak cough and some difficulty eating with food going down the wrong way. Both issues may predispose for the development of pneumonia.

If the cause of the paralysis is unknown, a workup will be performed, which may include chest and neck computed tomography (CT) scans or brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as indicated to help determine the cause. 

What causes vocal cord paralysis?

Vocal cord paralysis can be due to a reason such as, stroke, head and neck cancer, lung cancer or either expected or iatrogenic (unintentional) surgery. Vocal cord paralysis also can be due to an unknown cause. No matter the cause, treatment recommendations are based on whether it may recover over time or be permanent.

Treatment for vocal cord paralysis

For unilateral paralysis, if there is hope that recovery can occur, a temporary medialization injection augmentation can be performed. For this purpose, Prolaryn Gel Injectable Implant (©2021 Merz North America, Inc.) can be injected either in the office or in the operating room depending on the patient. This absorbs over time and lasts up to about three months. This allows time to see if the vocal cord will recover. Serial electromyography (EMG) of the vocal cord can be performed over time to see if there is evidence of recovery. If there is, waiting a year to perform repeated Prolaryn gel injections might be warranted.

If there is no evidence of recovery on the EMG or if the vocal cord paralysis is known to be permanent, a permanent medialization procedure can be performed. One option would be Prolaryn Plus Injectable Implant. Another option is to perform a thyroplasty implant.

Through a neck incision made over the larynx (voice box) an implant, such as a shaped silastic block, is placed through a small window made in the thyroid cartilage just lateral to the vocal cord and used to push the vocal cord into the midline. Different sizes can be placed depending on the size of the patient, extent of medialization and voice quality.

At UT Health East Texas, we will usually use the Montgomery® Thyroplasty Implant System (© 2021 Boston Medical Products Inc.). The benefit of this injection technique is that it is quick and easy and can usually be performed in even the sickest patients. However, the thyroplasty implant allows for a more predictable voice quality, can be performed in most patients and can be changed on the rare occasion a patient’s voice quality is not as good as expected.  

What is Prolaryn™ gel?

Prolaryn gel is a water-based injectable gel that can help bulk up or augment the displaced or damaged vocal fold so that it can improve speaking. Prolaryn gel is an injectable implant that dissolves within three to six months.

If you have serious difficulties with liquids and/or foods reaching your lungs (aspiration) you may be a candidate for an immediate injection.

Your doctor may choose Prolaryn gel if he or she feels your condition could improve after treatment or before treating you with longer-acting Prolaryn Plus.

Call 903-747-4098 to schedule a consultation.

Providers for Vocal cord paralysis

Robert Strominger, MD

To learn more about ear, nose and throat services or to schedule an appointment, call 903-747-4098.

Providers For Throat

Eric Flavill, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT), Head and Neck Surgery

Christopher A. Perro, MD, FACS
Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT), Head and Neck Surgery, Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Robert Strominger, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT), Head and Neck Surgery