Purpose: Vocal fold epithelium is composed of layers of individual epithelial cells joined by junctional complexes constituting a unique interface with the external environment. This barrier provides structural stability to the vocal folds and protects underlying connective tissue from injury while being nearly continuously exposed to potentially hazardous insults, including environmental or systemic-based irritants such as pollutants and reflux, surgical procedures, and vibratory trauma. Small disruptions in the epithelial barrier may have a large impact on susceptibility to injury and overall vocal health. The purpose of this article is to provide a broad-based review of current knowledge of the vocal fold epithelial barrier. Method: A comprehensive review of the literature was conducted. Details of the structure of the vocal fold epithelial barrier are presented and evaluated in the context of function in injury and pathology. The importance of the epithelialassociated vocal fold mucus barrier is also introduced. Results/Conclusions: Information presented in this review is valuable for clinicians and researchers as it highlights the importance of this understudied portion of the vocal folds to overall vocal health and disease. Prevention and treatment of injury to the epithelial barrier is a significant area awaiting further investigation.
Published in final edited form as:
Levendoski, E. E., Leydon, C., & Thibeault, S. L. (2014). Vocal fold epithelial barrier in health and injury: A research review. Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research, 57(5), 1679–1691. Doi: 10.1044/2014_JSLHR-S-13-0283
Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association