Laryngeal Leukoplakia: State of the Art Review

Joseph C. Park, Kenneth W. Altman, Vyas M.N. Prasad, Matthew Broadhurst, Lee M. Akst

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: This state-of-the-art article reviews the epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of vocal fold leukoplakia, with focus on recent advances. It focuses on the clinical challenges that otolaryngologists face balancing both oncological efficacy and functional outcomes in leukoplakia and presents the current philosophies and techniques to consider when managing such patients. Data Sources: PubMed/MEDLINE. Review Methods: We conducted a detailed review of publications related to vocal cord and laryngeal leukoplakia, dysplasia, hyperkeratosis, leukoplakia endoscopy, and leukoplakia management focusing specifically on oncologic outcomes, voice preservation, current and emerging diagnosis, and management techniques. Conclusions: There has been a paradigm shift away from performing “vocal cord stripping” procedures that can cause irreversible hoarseness toward voice preservation surgery while achieving comparable oncologic control. Surgical technical and instrumental developments have been designed to maximally treat superficial disease while preserving underling vibratory mucosa. Recent improvements in histopathological grading systems and advances in biomarker classification may allow for improved oncologic risk stratification. Furthermore, improvements in endoscopic imaging capabilities and contact endoscopy are currently being studied for their potential diagnostic significance. Implications for Practice: To optimally manage vocal fold leukoplakia, the otolaryngologist should become familiar with the oncologic implications of the disease and the importance of obtaining pathologic diagnosis to rule out malignancy. In addition, the surgeon should maintain surgical techniques and knowledge of available instruments and lasers that can assist in surgical management while prioritizing the preservation of vibratory tissue and voice quality. Finally, the surgeon and the patient should understand the clinical importance of routine endoscopic surveillance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1153-1159
Number of pages7
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • laryngeal cancer
  • laryngeal dysplasia
  • leukoplakia
  • voice preservation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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