Neurosurgical Treatment of Spasmodic Dysphonia: Thinking Outside the Voice Box | Christopher Honey, MD, DPhil, FRCSC, Vancouver General Hospital

Dr. Christopher Honey and his team are investigating the benefits and risks of using Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) to treat spasmodic dysphonia (SD) after previously reporting the unexpected benefits of this therapy in a patient with SD who had DBS for a different condition. The current study, generously funded by the NSDA, is a prospective, randomized, double-blind, cross-over study of six patients with SD who will all receive DBS. At this time, all six patients have been enrolled in the study and have received their surgery. There have been no complications. It is important to demonstrate that this surgery is safe (as it is for their patients with Parkinson’s disease) and they continue to closely monitor all patients.

The study has been designed so that the patients and researchers measuring their voice will not know if the DBS is “on” or “off”. This will eliminate any possible expectation bias. Their voice and quality of life will be measured after three months and then they will be ‘crossed-over’ to the other setting and tested again in three months. At the end of six months, all patients will be ‘unblinded’ and be informed when they were turned “on”. We will test them again at the end of one year. Patients will be very closely monitored for any possible complications.

Four patients have completed the ‘blinded phase’ and their voice samples are being analyzed by speech language pathologists. All patients should have completed the entire study by August, 2019. Dr. Honey hopes to present the preliminary results of their work at the NSDA Symposium in April 2019, and the final report will be submitted to a peer-reviewed medical journal for publication.