The clinicopathologic spectrum of benign mass lesions of the vocal fold due to vocal abuse

Int J Surg Pathol. 2011 Oct;19(5):583-7. doi: 10.1177/1066896911411480. Epub 2011 Jun 16.


Benign masses of the vocal fold related to phonotrauma are clinically classified into polyps, nodules, Reinke's edema, and cysts. Despite the apparent distinctiveness of the clinical nomenclature, low inter- and intraobserver diagnostic agreement has been reported. Excepting cysts, which are epithelial lined, histologic examination of the remaining lesions has shown a variety of overlapping features insufficiently specific for the clinical diagnoses. This study reviews the clinicopathologic characteristics among these benign lesions of the vocal fold. A total of 78 nonneoplastic lesions of the vocal fold were reviewed by 2 pathologists for the presence of epithelial hyperplasia, basement membrane thickening, edema, vascular proliferation, and extracellular "amyloid-like" fibrin. In 46 cases with prebiopsy stroboscopic images, 2 otolaryngologists classified each lesion as polyp, nodule, Reinke's edema, cyst, or other. They agreed in 43% (n = 20, 13 polyps, 5 nodules, 1 Reinke's edema, 1 other) and disagreed in 57% (n = 26). There was no histologic feature that reliably distinguished among the lesions. In addition, reactive stromal cell atypia was present in 14 cases. Cysts were distinctive, as all were epithelial lined. The clinicopathologic classification of benign laryngeal lesions is neither clinically reproducible nor histologically unique. Treatment will continue to be individualized based on clinical judgment.

MeSH terms

  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / complications*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Diseases / etiology*
  • Laryngeal Diseases / pathology*
  • Vocal Cords / pathology*