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Vocal Polyps and Nodules Workup

  • Author: Robert A Buckmire, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
Updated: Jul 28, 2015

Imaging Studies

Gomaa et al studied the value of high-resolution ultrasonography in the diagnosis of laryngeal lesions that had already been detected with rigid endoscopy. They concluded that it is an alternative technique for diagnosing some lesions, particularly small subglottic lesions.[13]


Other Tests

No specific laboratory studies are singularly diagnostic of these conditions. Measurements within a voice laboratory, including aerodynamic, acoustic, and videostroboscopic baselines (as well as a high-quality audio recording of the patient's voice) are all helpful for appropriate pretreatment and posttreatment documentation. Lastly, clinician and patient perceptual measures are commonly performed to more subjectively gauge the impact of the vocal disability and improvement.


Diagnostic Procedures

Videostrobolaryngoscopy is far more sensitive for detecting laryngeal lesions when compared with other indirect laryngoscopy techniques because of its ability to demonstrate subtle differences in the appearance, pliability, and mucosal wave characteristics (ie, symmetry, periodicity, amplitude, vertical phase difference) of the TVF cover.


Histologic Findings

On a structural level, a significant body of work has been performed to identify pathologic structural characteristics of benign vocal cord lesions and from this to infer pathogenesis. Immunohistochemical characterization of the extracellular matrix of excised, clinically diagnosed, benign laryngeal lesions revealed nodules to more commonly have a thickened basement membrane zone (BMZ) and dense fibronectin arrangement within the superficial lamina propria (LP), as compared with those diagnosed as polyps. These polypoid lesions tended to exhibit an unaltered BMZ thickness and to have fibronectin depositions clustered around neovasculature.

These patterns of structural deviation from the normal layered microanatomy of the TVF have been reported previously. In 1995, Gray et al formulated a theory of causation and pathologic response, hypothesizing as follows: "The vocal folds sustain enough injury to lead to BMZ disruption and injury to the superficial layer of the lamina propria. The injury, if repetitive, leads to aberrant healing and a fibroblastic response involving increased fibronectin deposition."[14]

On an ultrastructural level, nodules tend to demonstrate epithelial changes in the form of increased thickness, gaping of the intracellular junctions, and absence of the basal lamina. These changes were much less prominent in the polyps examined. Conversely, polyps tended to show variable pathologic patterns; some demonstrated marked vascularity, and others had hyaline stromal changes. The authors interpreted differences as perhaps indicative of a more long-standing exposure to injurious agents in the case of VFNs; they interpreted "microstromal hemorrhages" as potentially playing a role in the formation of VFPs. Gray et al speculated that the heterogeneous findings might be due to the stage in the life cycle of the polyp examined.[6]

A prospective, histopathologic study by Effat and Milad indicated that in comparison with vocal polyps in nonsmokers, those in people who do smoke tend to be larger and to display increased keratinization, dysplasia, basement membrane thinning, and hyaline degeneration. The study examined polyps from 29 patients, including smokers and nonsmokers.[15]

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Robert A Buckmire, MD Associate Professor,Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of North Carolina; Chief, Divison of Voice and Swallowing Disorders, Director, University of North Carolina Voice Center

Robert A Buckmire, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American College of Surgeons, National Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Robert M Kellman, MD Professor and Chair, Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences, State University of New York Upstate Medical University

Robert M Kellman, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Head and Neck Society, American Rhinologic Society, Triological Society, American Neurotology Society, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, Medical Society of the State of New York

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA Professor of Otolaryngology, Dentistry, and Engineering, University of Colorado School of Medicine

Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Head and Neck Society

Disclosure: Serve(d) as a director, officer, partner, employee, advisor, consultant or trustee for: Cerescan;RxRevu;SymbiaAllergySolutions<br/>Received income in an amount equal to or greater than $250 from: Symbia<br/>Received from Allergy Solutions, Inc for board membership; Received honoraria from RxRevu for chief medical editor; Received salary from Medvoy for founder and president; Received consulting fee from Corvectra for senior medical advisor; Received ownership interest from Cerescan for consulting; Received consulting fee from Essiahealth for advisor; Received consulting fee from Carespan for advisor; Received consulting fee from Covidien for consulting.

Additional Contributors

John Schweinfurth, MD Professor, Department of Otolaryngology, University of Mississippi Medical Center

John Schweinfurth, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy, American Laryngological Association, Triological Society, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Medscape Reference thanks Vijay R Ramakrishnan, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Otolaryngology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, for assistance with the video contribution to this article.

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Vocal fold polyp (VFP) found during office videostroboscopy.
This picture shows the surgical view of a vocal fold polyp (VFP) as observed via high-power microlaryngoscopy.
This picture is a postoperative surgical view immediately following microsurgical removal of vocal fold polyp (VFP).
Videostroboscopy of postoperative vocal fold polyp (VFP). This is an image from office examination of the same patient as in Image 3, 6 days following VFP removal. Note the straight edge of the vocal fold (right side of image).
Along the anterior right true vocal fold, a pedunculated hemorrhagic polyp is seen. Surgical treatment is indicated. Video courtesy of Vijay R Ramakrishnan, MD.
In this patient with hoarseness, opposing nodules are clearly seen at the anterior one third of the true vocal cords. These responded nicely to outpatient nonsurgical treatment (voice therapy). Video courtesy of Vijay R Ramakrishnan, MD.
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