Reinke’s edema is a swelling of the vocal fold in the superficial layers that are normally responsible for normal function. It is a form of chronic irritation and the collection of gelatinous debris in between the layers of the vocal folds resulting in increasing roughness in the sound and polypoid change in appearance. Reinke’s edema is not precancerous or cancerous but it is a sign of chronic injury to the vocal folds. The swelling and degenerative inflammatory changes that occur within the vocal fold usually occur along the entire length of the vocal fold.
Reinke’s edema is treated with smoking cessation. It is very unrealistic to expect micro laryngeal surgery to have any permanent impact if the patient continues to smoke. Once the source of swelling is removed micro laryngeal surgery can be used to excise excessive, redundant mucosa. This type of microscopic laryngeal surgery requires experience and expertise. Excess vocal fold mucosa needs to be excised but if it is excised excessively scar can result. As with any micro-laryngeal surgery it may be weeks to months before the final voice results are obtained.