Reinke’s Edema is the swelling of the entire outer layer of the vocal fold (superficial lamina propria or Reinke’s layer). It is also commonly referred to as Polypoid Corditis. Reinke’s Edema occurs exclusively in smokers, and is thought to be caused by the heat of inhaled cigarette smoke. Although Reinke’s Edema does not lead to cancer, all patients with Reinke’s Edema should be carefully screened for cancer due to the chronic tobacco use.
Reinke’s Edema causes a lowering in the pitch of the voice. This change in voice is often more noticeable in women. Occasionally, the swelling can be significant and can obstruct the larynx, resulting in difficulty breathing.
Tobacco cessation is the best way to treat Reinke’s Edema and mild forms of the disease are often reversed with tobacco cessation.
More advanced cases may require surgery to reduce the redundant vocal fold tissue. Micro-laryngoscopy is the most precise means of operating on the vocal folds. All surgery is done under general anesthesia via a laryngoscope, an instrument inserted through the mouth to view the larynx directly. There are no skin incisions. A microscope is used for magnification of the field of surgery and micro-instruments are utilized. Great care must be taken to avoid excessive tissue removal and to preserve an adequate amount of mucosa in order to minimize the chance of scarring. Following surgery, continued tobacco cessation is required to help reduce the risk of recurrence.