Sulcus vocalis: A new clinical paradigm based on a re-evaluation of histology

Andrew Lee, Lucian Sulica, Alana Aylward, Theresa Scognamiglio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Objectives/Hypothesis Sulcus vocalis is an epithelial invagination adherent to deep tissues of the vocal fold. Traditionally, dysphonia is believed to result from attenuation or absence of lamina propria and consequent alteration of mucosal dynamics. This conception does not account for several clinical features of the lesion, most notably inflammation. The goal of this study is to elucidate the clinical nature of sulcus by re-examination of its histopathology. Study Design Retrospective review. Methods Clinical features, including stroboscopic examination, and hematoxylin and eosin sections of 19 lesions in 15 patients who underwent surgery were reviewed. Results Epithelial change was found uniformly in all specimens, consisting of parakeratosis (78.9%), epithelial thickening (77.8%), dyskeratosis (63.2%), basement membrane thickening (47%), epithelial inflammation (52.6%), and retention of keratin debris (36.8%). In contrast, submucosal findings were less prevalent. Seven patients (36.8%) had essentially normal subepithelial tissues. Submucosal inflammation was present in seven (36.8%), and other submucosal changes in four of 17 (23.5%). Clinical characteristics demonstrated general improvement after surgical intervention in most cases. Conclusions Sulcus vocalis appears to have an important component of epithelial pathology, with especially high prevalence of parakeratosis, dyskeratosis, and epithelial thickening. Clinical changes may result from prominent perilesional inflammation related to epithelial changes instead of or in addition to any alteration of the lamina propria. Surgical treatment, when necessary, should refocus on removal of pathologic epithelium as a source of inflammation independent of reconstructive considerations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1397-1403
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • larynx
  • microlaryngoscopy
  • phonotrauma
  • sulcus vocalis
  • Vocal fold sulcus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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