Imaging the mucosa of the human vocal fold with optical coherence tomography

James A. Burns, Steven M. Zeitels, R. Rox Anderson, James B. Kobler, Mark C. Pierce, Johannes F. De Boer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Objectives: Discerning the layered microstructure of the vocal folds is critical for effective phonomicrosurgery. Optical coherence tomography (OCT), a noncontact, noninvasive technology that provides cross-sectional images by means of backscattered light, offers the potential for delineating these layers in vivo. Methods: The glottal mucosa of 3 human cadaver larynges was imaged with conventional OCT and polarization-sensitive OCT (PS-OCT). Images were obtained through the epithelium and lamina propria. Results: Although the superficial layer of the lamina propria appeared quite homogeneous, the outer surface of the superficial lamina propria was correlated with an increase in backscatter with OCT. The superficial lamina propria and vocal ligament were correlated with a marked increase in tissue birefringence with PS-OCT. Conclusions: This preliminary study demonstrates the capacity of OCT and PS-OCT for visualizing the layered microstructure of the vocal fold mucosa. We believe that these imaging techniques will have applications in the exploration of solutions to vocal fold scarring and in imaging vocal fold disorders in the clinic and operating room.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-676
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • Glottis
  • Imaging technique
  • Larynx
  • Optical coherence tomography
  • Vocal fold

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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