Performing Arts Medicine, 3rd ed.Medical Problems of Performing Artists

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Respiratory Dysfunction in Vocalists and Wind Instrumentalists

Robert T. Sataloff, John R. Cohn, Mary Hawkshaw
From: Performing Arts Medicine, 3rd ed.: Chapter 10 © 2010; page: 197

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Abstract: Most vocalists, actors, and wind instrumentalists present with complaints about changes in their ability to perform, yet many times, the problem is not in the vocal folds but rather in the production of adequate airflow. Mild respiratory maladies, such as cough or nasal congestion, may not alter the voice primarily but can cause irritation or changes in technique that can impair performance. Minor alterations in respiratory function that go barely noticed in the general population can have significant effects on a professional vocalist or instrumentalist, causing fatigue, loss of range, and hyperfunctional compensation and abusive technique. This chapter explores the methods of assessment for the performer, using a thorough patient history, physical examination, rhinomanometry, airflow rate testing, pulmonary function testing, and radiography. Diagnosis focuses on the level of airway obstruction, such as the nasal airway (e.g., allergy), pharyngeal or laryngeal sites, and pulmonary conditions. Disorders in the lung can be obstructive (e.g., asthma, COPD, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, pneumonia) or restrictive (e.g., obesity, weakness due to muscle disease, pulmonary fibrosis, neoplasm, congestive heart failure, etc). Treatment of the underlying pulmonary disease to restore effective support is essential to resolving the vocal problem.

Last Updated: 5 / 2010

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