Over a 26-year period, from 1970 to 1995, 2250 pre-operative vocal fold checks were carried out by the ENT team at Manchester Royal Infirmary in patients undergoing thyroid, parathyroid and cardiothoracic surgery. A register was kept of all pre-operative fold checks. This register was retrospectively analysed and 23 vocal fold palsies were documented. In six of these patients the notes were either missing or incomplete. All of the remaining 17 patients had a history suggestive of vocal fold palsy. We suggest that in the absence of symptoms, either current or on history, a routine pre-operative vocal fold check is unnecessary.