Premalignant epithelium and microinvasive cancer of the vocal fold: the evolution of phonomicrosurgical management

Laryngoscope. 1995 Mar;105(3 Pt 2):1-51. doi: 10.1288/00005537-199503001-00001.


Phonomicrosurgical treatment of premalignant vocal fold epithelium and microinvasive cancer combines principles of surgical oncology with advanced laryngoscopic microsurgical-techniques. This treatment is guided by mucosal-wave theory of voice production and strives not only to cure the disease but also to achieve optimal vocal function. Surgical techniques developed during the past two centuries have improved methods for vocal fold visualization, tissue retrieval, and tissue evaluation. Examination of the evolution of these surgical techniques reveals the incomplete convergence of laryngoscopic surgical theory with both the concept of premalignancy and the anatomical-physiological principles of voice production. This historical review, which helps to explain the lack of consensus about current treatment options, led to a series of four investigations. They were conducted with the aim of developing a laryngoscopic (phonomicrosurgical) management approach for improving the treatment of premalignant and microinvasive vocal fold epithelium. In the first of four investigations, 42 patients (each of whom had a significant smoking history) underwent microlaryngoscopic biopsy of 52 vocal fold lesions. These lesions, which were suspicious for atypia or malignancy and were confined to the musculomembranous vocal fold, were mapped according to surface involvement and depth of penetration. Review of the maps revealed that 27 of the 52 lesions involved only the superior/ventricular surface. For these patients, the entire layered vocal fold structure could potentially be preserved on the medial/vocalizing surface. Twenty-five of the 52 lesions involved both the superior/ventricular surface and the medial/vocalizing surface. No lesion involved only the medial surface. These data suggest that (in smokers) geographic localization of keratotic and erythroplastic lesions on the superior/ventricular surface of the musculomembranous vocal fold are likely to contain atypia. This characteristic facilitates the appropriate selection of patients for biopsy and may spare individuals, who have lesions resulting from hyperfunctional dysphonia and/or gastroesophageal reflux, from unnecessary biopsy. These two disorders typically result in pathology on the medial and/or posterior glottal surfaces. In order to determine whether a directed biopsy or an excisional biopsy approach is preferable for obtaining an accurate diagnosis, all specimens underwent whole-mount sectioning for three-dimensional histopathological analysis. Keratosis was noted: without atypia in 14; with atypia in 27; and with carcinoma in 11. The severity of the atypia usually varied throughout each specimen. The surface appearance of the lesion was not a reliable prognosticator of the severity of dysplasia either between patients or in different areas of the same lesion; therefore, excisional biopsy and whole-mount, multiple-section histopathological analysis were necessary for obtaining an accurate diagnosis.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Clinical Trial
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / history*
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Laryngoscopy / history*
  • Microsurgery / history
  • Microsurgery / methods
  • Pilot Projects
  • Precancerous Conditions / history*
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology
  • Precancerous Conditions / surgery*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Surgical Flaps
  • Vocal Cords / pathology
  • Vocal Cords / surgery*
  • Voice Quality