American Idol Finalist Caleb Johnson Sings Despite Vocal Cord Hemorrhage

It’s down to the final three- 17 year old Michigan high-schooler Jenna Irene, New Hampshire native Alex Preston, and North Carolina rocker Caleb Johnson.  On last night show- the 500th American Idol episode- the Top 3 battle to make it to next week’s final.

But Caleb Johnson had an additional issue to worry about- he’s dealing with a vocal cord problem. According to AI show physician,  Dr. Shaun Nasseri,  Johnson was suffering from “bronchitis and sinusitis and had a minor vocal-cord hemorrhage“:

“He’s like a runner who’s running with a badly bruised ankle, but I think he’s going to do fantastic.”

I’ll let you be the judge as to how he performed:

Caleb is just one of a long list of celebrity singers who have faced vocal cord problems, including John Mayer, Adele, Celine Dion, and Steven Tyler.

What are the vocal cords?

vocal_cordsThe vocal cords are two folds of smooth muscle within the voice box (larynx).  The larynx lies at the top of the windpipe (trachea), just below the back of the tongue. Air passing through the vocal cords causes them to vibrate, and produce the sound of your voice.

What is a vocal cord hemorrhage?

Vocal fold hemorrhageAccording to the American Academy of Otolargology-Head and Neck Surgery, a vocal cord hemorrhage results when one of the blood vessels on the surface of the vocal cord ruptures and the soft tissues of the vocal cord fill with blood.

Hemorrhage is usually the result of vocal trauma. Vocal abuse or misuse, such as excessive use of the voice when singing, talking, smoking, coughing, yelling, or inhaling irritants can cause damage to the tiny blood vessels of the vocal cords. These may rupture and bleed. Blood vessels that are more fragile than normal, such as those swollen by laryngitis, may also be more prone to bleed.

The main symptoms of vocal hemorrhage are hoarseness and loss of voice occurring over a fairly brief time period. This is not painful, and does not cause any difficulty with swallowing or breathing.

How is vocal cord hemorrhage treated?

Vocal cord hemorrhage is considered a vocal emergency and is treated with absolute voice rest until the hemorrhage resolves.

Often this is a one-time event, and other than improving vocal technique to prevent re-occurrence, nothing else need be done.

However, according to Dr. Lucian Sulica, a otolaryngologist on the  faculty at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, “Repeated hemorrhage… always has an underlying cause, be it a harmful voice behavior or an irregularity on the vocal fold. In the first case, voice therapy may be useful, and in the second, microlaryngoscopy may be necessary to remove or repair any small irregularities or blood vessels prone to bleeding. This is among the more delicate surgeries in laryngology.”


Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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