Loyola University Maryland

Emerging Scholars

Amanda Poli, Sally Gallena, Ph.D.

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The Impact of Online Support in Management of Vocal Cord Dysfunction Symptoms

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There is evidence to support that participation in online support groups indicate positive effects for groups of individuals experiencing common characteristics, such as women diagnosed with breast cancer (Lieberman, 2003). Trends have shown increasing popularity of Facebook groups created for other special interest populations, like parents of premature infants (Thoren et al., 2013). Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) is a laryngeal disorder leading to severe episodes of shortness of breath that frequently affects young adolescent athletes. Also known as paradoxical vocal fold motion (PVFM), symptoms of a VCD episode are experienced when the vocal folds close when they should remain open. Individuals diagnosed with VCD often report extreme emotional distress secondary to an episode, including fear, anxiety, and a total loss of breathing control (Gallena, 2014). While vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) is a physiological disorder of the larynx, research has revealed a significant psychosocial component to the condition as well. In order to address these psychosocial needs of individuals diagnosed with VCD, this study examined how the supplementary use of an online support group impacted the overall treatment outcomes following 6 weeks of breathing technique therapy.

Participants will be females referred for treatment of VCD to Dr. Sally Gallena, Ph.D., CCC-SLP ranging from ages 13-18. All participants will complete the Dyspnea Severity Index and answer preliminary interview questions to provide quantitative pre-test measure of the client’s perception of their VCD episodes. During a 12-minute exercise challenge designed to become increasingly more challenging by increasing the speed and incline of a treadmill, participants will be asked to incrementally rate their breathing difficulty on the Borg Dyspnea Scale (BDS). Following instructional breathing techniques, young ladies who express verbal interest upon explanation of the VCD Facebook group will be invited via email to join the group. Young ladies who do not have a personal Facebook page or express interest in joining the VCD group were included in this study as the control group. After 6 weeks of breathing technique therapy, post-test measures will be obtained through responses to the Participant Follow-Up Interview Breathing Therapy questionnaire and the Dyspnea Severity Index.