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Stridor in Parkinson's disease: a case of ‘dry drowning’?

  • E C Gan (a1), D P Lau (a1) and K L Cheah (a2)



(1) To present a rare case of stridor secondary to prolonged laryngospasm in a patient with Parkinson's disease, and (2) to review the literature on stridor in Parkinson's disease.


We report a 73-year-old Parkinson's disease patient who developed acute stridor due to prolonged laryngospasm triggered by overspill of excessive secretions. The literature was reviewed, following a Medline search using the keywords ‘Parkinson's disease’ and ‘stridor’ or ‘airway obstruction’ or ‘laryngospasm’ or ‘laryngeal dystonia’ or ‘bilateral vocal cord palsy’.


Only 12 previously reported cases of stridor in Parkinson's disease patients were identified. Causes included bilateral vocal fold palsy (eight cases), laryngospasm (five), and dystonia of the jaw and neck muscles (two). The mechanism of laryngospasm in our patient was similar to ‘dry drowning’, and has not previously been described.


Laryngospasm can be triggered in Parkinson's disease by excessive secretions entering the larynx. The mechanism is similar to ‘dry drowning’. Treatment focuses on reducing secretions. The use of botulinum toxin to reduce spasm is inappropriate in this situation. This case emphasises the importance of recognising different causes of stridor in Parkinson's disease patients, as this affects management.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Dr Eng Cern Gan, Department of Otolaryngology, Singapore General Hospital, Outram Road, Singapore 169608. Fax: +65 6226 2079 E-mail:


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Stridor in Parkinson's disease: a case of ‘dry drowning’?

  • E C Gan (a1), D P Lau (a1) and K L Cheah (a2)


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