Vocal cord palsy after adult cardiac surgery is often attributed to non-surgical mechanisms as tracheal intubation and central venous catheterisation. It may also be caused by injury of the recurrent laryngeal nerves by surgical dissection. We hereby present a review of relevant clinical reports. The cumulative incidence was 1.1% (33 in 2980). Main reported surgical mechanisms of injury were harvesting of internal thoracic artery and topical cold cardioprotection. Bilateral nerve palsy has been lethal on at least one occasion. Where vocal cord injury followed harvesting of the left internal thoracic artery, it was reported ipsilateral to the conduit.