Adele's Vocal Surgery: An Expert Weighs In

'I always liken them to athletes ... even athletes get hamstring pulls,' director of Yale Speech & Swallow Center says of professional singers' vocal issues.

Late last week, after months of battling voice issues and tour cancellations, Adele announced that she would undergo throat surgery to repair her hemorrhaged vocal cords.

Though the extent of her procedure is unknown, vocal surgeries are fairly common among professional singers (Steven Tyler had surgery to repair a popped blood vessel on his vocal cord in 2006, and just last week, Kiss' Paul Stanley underwent a similar procedure), but that doesn't mean Adele's injury isn't a serious matter. Quite the opposite, in fact.

"Given that it's a hemorrhage, that means it's blood, it's actual blood that's weighing the larynx down," Dr. Nwanmegha Young, director of the Yale Speech & Swallow Center, told MTV News on Tuesday (November 1). "You have this thing that flutters against the pressure you produce in your lungs, and if it weighs down and gets heavier, it doesn't flutter as well, so you don't get that sound that comes out."

Dr. Young, who specializes in working with professional singers, said that he's seen plenty of artists who have dealt with the same sort of issues Adele is suffering through, and usually, the path that led to their injury is the same.

"[Often] it begins with laryngitis, which is inflammation of the voice box, and you can get swelling of the vocal cords too, and that's bad because it doesn't vibrate very well," he explained. "And somebody who's a singer sometimes tends to push through that, and when they push through that, they cause extra pressure, which can lead to hemorrhage. So it's kind of a continuum: You strain your voice, you get swelling, the swelling causes you to strain more, you put more pressure there, and then these vessels can rupture."

In June, Adele canceled a spate of shows due to a bout with laryngitis, and she scrapped even more dates in September due to "a severe cold and chest infection." Though doctors ordered her on strict vocal rest, Young believes the damage was already done.

"From what I read, she had a bout of laryngitis, she was probably told to rest at that point, and she may have not rested enough, kept going, and she pushed through that and caused more pressure and strain and she just hemorrhaged, and now she has to rest — there's no choice," he said.

Though he can't speak specifically to Adele's upcoming surgery, he's performed enough procedures to have a good idea of what she'll have done to repair her hemorrhage.

"People with repetitive hemorrhages, sometimes what [surgeons] do is go in and prophylactically seal those vessels off, because they have a tendency to leak again," he said. "So you'll go in, you'll take a laser or some kind of cauterizer, and you'll spot and seal them off. That's what I'd assume, since she's had repeated hemorrhages."

Young said the average recovery time from vocal surgery is "one to two months" and that, in the long term, Adele's voice should be just fine. But moving forward, she'll have to continuously monitor her condition, because as a professional singer, her vocal workload is something the average person just can't comprehend.

"It's a huge vocal load they have. I always liken them to athletes ... these muscles are very small, they tend to fatigue out quickly, and a lot of these are endurance athletes in a sense; they're able to do it repetitively," he said. "But even endurance athletes get hamstring pulls or whatever, and that's what happens with singers. And the problem is, a lot of them have pressure to keep going; they may have commitments to tour for a month or two, and this happens, and some of them tend to push through it, and when you push through it, that can lead to more trouble."