Vocal Cord Polyps

What is a Vocal Cord Polyp?

A polyp on the vocal cord usually comes from trauma to the edge of the vocal cord. It is similar to a blister but instead of thin fluid it is filled with a jelly-like substance. Typically these arise from hard singing, raising of the voice, excessive voice use, coughing, or sneezing. Hemorrhagic polyps occur when there is a broken blood vessel on the edge of the vocal cord; these appear red on exam like a blood blister. Both types cause hoarseness by interfering with the normal closure and vibration of the vocal cords.

How are polyps treated?

Polyps need to removed with a very precise surgery using an operating microscope. Tiny instruments are used to carefully remove the polyp while preserving all of the normal underlying tissue. Often speech therapy will also be recommended to eliminate bad vocal habits or technique that may have caused the polyp. It is very important to not use the voice for one week after the polyp removal to allow the vocal cord to heal properly.

Can polyps be cancerous?

Some lesions on the vocal cord that look like polyps are occasionally other growths, such as warts (papillomas) or precancers or even cancers. Tissue sampling is important to prove that a polyp is not cancerous. This is done at the time of removal of the polyp.