Wisconsin OHNS Researcher Awarded $2.4 Million Grant for Vocal Fold Paralysis Study

David O. Francis, MD, MS
David O. Francis, MD, MS

Division of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery surgeon-scientist David O. Francis, MD, MS, has been awarded a research grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to design a tool that will allow clinicians to better incorporate a patient’s perspective when making treatment decisions and evaluating treatment effectiveness. The study will focus on patients with vocal fold paralysis, a condition that affects 16 million people in the United States and that can cause difficulties with communication, eating, and breathing.

“Vocal fold paralysis is an ideal condition for us to study for a few reasons,” said Francis. “We have effective treatments for it, decisions about which treatment(s) to use are based on patient preferences, and there is wide variation among patients in terms of injury severity and how impactful the injury is for the patient. Using this information, a novel patient-reported outcome measure we’ve already developed, and applying state-of-the-art machine-learning approaches, we can evaluate patients before and after treatment to determine the level of improvement that is most valuable to each one of them.”

The study will take place at 37 high-volume voice centers across the U.S. and will follow 1,000 patients who are newly diagnosed with vocal fold paralysis within three months of an injury. Before they start any treatments, the patients will complete questionnaires that provide their perspective on how severe their injury is and to describe their voice use on a typical day before they were injured as well as their current voice use. The patients will then complete these same assessments after they complete treatment, allowing the research team to determine how effective the treatment is from the patient’s perspective.

“Our study could revolutionize how clinicians can use patient-reported outcome measures to assess treatment outcomes from the patient’s point-of-view across all conditions” Francis added. “Using this information and a novel machine learning approach, we’ll be able to personalize treatment decisions for patients so they can achieve the results they want and need.”