Research Article|Articles in Press

Membranous Vocal Fold Lesions in Patients With Chronic Cough: A Case Series



      Trauma related to chronic cough and forceful glottal closure has been associated with lesions of the vocal process; however, there is limited description of cough leading to membranous vocal fold lesions. We present a series of mid-membranous vocal fold lesions in a cohort of patients with chronic cough, with a proposed mechanism of lesion formation.


      Patients treated for chronic cough with membranous vocal fold lesions affecting phonation were identified. Presentation, diagnosis, treatment strategies (behavioral, medical, and surgical), patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs), and videostroboscopy were reviewed.


      Five patients are included (four females, one male, aged 56±16 years). Mean cough duration was 2.6±3.5 years. All patients were on acid suppressive medications for existing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) prior to referral. All lesions were identified at the mid-membranous vocal folds and morphologically encompassed a wound healing spectrum between ulceration and/or granulation tissue (granuloma) formation. Patients were treated in an interdisciplinary fashion with behavioral cough suppression therapy, superior laryngeal nerve block, and neuromodulators. Three had persistent lesions requiring procedural intervention (one office-based steroid injection and two surgical excisions). At the completion of treatment, all five patients had improvement in Cough Severity Index with an average decrease of 15.2±4.8. All but one patient had improvement in their Voice Handicap Index-10 with an average decrease of 13.2±11.1. One patient undergoing surgical intervention was noted to have a persistent lesion on follow-up.


      Mid-membranous vocal fold lesions in patients with chronic cough are uncommon. When they do occur, they represent epithelial change arising in context of shear injury and are distinct from phonotraumatic lesions in the lamina propria. An interdisciplinary approach including behavioral cough suppression therapy, neuromodulators, superior laryngeal nerve block, and acid suppression are reasonable for initial management, reserving surgical intervention for refractory lesions once the inciting source of injury has been controlled.

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