UC Health Offers Outpatient Laser Procedure for Benign Vocal Fold Tumors

CINCINNATI—UC Health experts are the only ones locally offering an outpatient laser procedure for patients with recurrent benign tumors, polyps or growths on their vocal folds (cords), eliminating the need for general anesthesia and time in the operating room.

laserRebecca Howell, MD, a UC Health otolaryngologist, assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at the UC College of Medicine and a member of the UC Cancer Institute, is the only expert in the Tristate performing this procedure, which she says is a safe, FDA-approved alternative to traditional surgery for patients with chronic issues.

“The lining of the vocal fold is called epithelium and is similar to what you feel on the inside of your cheek,” says Howell. “Any lumps, bumps or irregularities on or underneath the vocal fold cover disrupts the gelatinous layer called the lamina propria and this can cause abnormal vibration associated with symptoms of hoarseness. Papilloma and leukoplakia or dysplasia (precancerous tumors) are two particular lesions seen on the vocal folds that historically required multiple operations and have no true ‘cure.’ Alternatively, they can be effectively treated with in-office laser procedures instead of or sometimes in addition to traditional surgery.”

She says the KTP—K (potassium) Titanyl Phosphate)—laser, which is performed at the UC Health West Chester location, is delivered using a flexible laryngoscope through the nose and is used to visualize the voice box during the entire procedure.

“The procedure usually lasts about 15 to 30 minutes, but the total time at the office is approximately one hour,” Howell says. “The patient is fully awake, but his or her nose and throat is numbed with local anesthetics; this makes it possible for the patient to watch as the procedure takes place. Additionally, part of the treatment is video documented and recorded. This allows us to easily access and compare the old exams in conjunction with patient-reported symptoms so that we can treat patients individually and cater to their particular disease.

“The benefits to this procedure are twofold in that the patient can avoid the risks and recovery from general anesthesia but it also saves the patient an otherwise ‘lost day.’ In fact, many patients are able to return to work, school or activities of daily living as soon as they leave the hospital.”

However, Howell does recommend that patients avoid eating and drinking for two hours after the procedure to allow the local numbing medications time to wear off.

“We’re so excited to offer this safe and effective procedure for patients who may have otherwise undergone traditional surgery or who needed to travel outside of the area to have it done previously,” she says.

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