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Methods of perceptual voice evaluation have yet to achieve satisfactory consistency; complete acceptance of a recognised clinical protocol is still some way off.
Materials and methods:
Three speech and language therapists rated the voices of 43 patients attending the problem asthma clinic of a teaching hospital, according to the grade-roughness-breathiness-asthenicity-strain (GRBAS) scale and other perceptual categories.
Results and analysis:
Use of the GRBAS scale achieved only a 64.7 per cent inter-rater reliability and a 69.6 per cent intra-rater reliability for the grade component. One rater achieved a higher degree of consistency. Improved concordance on the GRBAS scale was observed for subjects with laryngeal abnormalities. Raters failed to reach any useful level of agreement in the other categories employed, except for perceived gender.
These results should sound a note of caution regarding routine adoption of the GRBAS scale for characterising voice quality for clinical purposes. The importance of training and the use of perceptual anchors for reliable perceptual rating need to be further investigated.
To characterise the spectrum of nasal symptomatology and nasendoscopic abnormalities seen in patients attending an asthma clinic, and to relate these symptoms to the likelihood of finding nasendoscopic abnormalities which merit treatment.
Forty-three patients attending a problem asthma clinic were enrolled in an observational study. Cardinal nasal symptoms – obstruction, congestion, hyposmia, rhinorrhoea, sneezing, epistaxis or other symptoms – were graded as none (zero), mild (one), moderate (two) or severe (three), giving a maximum nasal symptom score of 21. Asthma symptoms and lung function were measured. Nasendoscopy was then performed.
Obstruction was the most common cardinal nasal symptom (seen in 15 patients), the median nasal symptom score was 5.3 (range zero to 14) and only three patients had no nasal symptoms. There was no correlation between nasal symptom score and severity of asthma symptoms or forced expiratory volume in one second. Twenty-two patients had a normal appearance on ENT examination (median nasal symptom score four). The nasendoscopic abnormalities seen comprised polyps (n = 8; median nasal symptom score five), deviated nasal septum (n = 7; median nasal symptom score four), oedematous mucosa (n = 4; median nasal symptom score seven) and other abnormalities (n = 2). Individual nasal symptoms were poor predictors of individual nasal pathologies, with hyposmia the best individual predictor of any abnormality (positive predictive value 80 per cent). The presence of a combination of symptoms increased the likelihood of any nasendoscopic abnormality, with obstruction, rhinorrhoea and hyposmia together having a positive predictive value of 100 per cent.
Nasal symptoms are much more frequent than structural abnormalities in patients attending a problem asthma clinic. The threshold for ENT referral should be lower when the patient complains of a symptom complex including hyposmia. Furthermore, concurrent hyposmia, obstruction and rhinorrhoea should be seen as an indication for ENT referral.
Asthma treatment has the potential to affect patients' voices. We undertook detailed characterisation of voice morbidity in patients attending a problem asthma clinic, and we determined how patients' perceptions related to objective assessment by an experienced observer.
Forty-three patients took part in the study. Subjects completed the self-administered voice symptom score (VoiSS) questionnaire and underwent digital voice recording. These voice recordings were scored using the grade–roughness–breathiness–asthenicity–strain system (GRBAS). Laryngoscopy was also performed.
The median VoiSS was 26 (range three to 83). VoiSS were significantly lower in the 17 patients with normal laryngeal structure and function (range four to 46; median 22), compared with the 26 patients with functional or structural laryngeal abnormality (range three to 83; median 33) (95 per cent confidence intervals for difference 0.0–21.0; p = 0.044). The overall grade score for the GRBAS scale did not differ between these two groups, and only 13 patients had a GRBAS score of one or more, recognised as indicating a voice problem. There were positive correlations between related GRBAS score and voice symptom score subscales. Although voice symptom scores were significantly more abnormal in patients with structural and functional abnormalities, this score performed only moderately well as a predictive tool (sensitivity 54 per cent; specificity 71 per cent). Nevertheless, the voice symptom score performed as well as the more labour-intensive GRBAS score (sensitivity 57 per cent; specificity 60 per cent). Patients' inhaled corticosteroid dose (median dose 1000 µg beclomethasone dipropionate or equivalent) had a statistically significant relationship with their overall grade score for the GRBAS scale (r = 0.56; p < 0.001), but not with their VoiSS. Only one patient had evidence of laryngeal candidiasis, and only two had any evidence of abnormality suggesting steroid-induced myopathy.
Vocal morbidity is common in patients with asthma, and should not be immediately attributed to steroid-related candidiasis. The VoiSS merits further, prospective validation as a screening tool for ENT and/or speech and language therapy referral in patients with asthma.
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