In addition to patient outcomes, process mapping, and educational research being performed in our clinical programs, scientists in the Institute for Voice and Swallowing Laboratory are also committed to a strong foundation in basic science research.
Dr. Julina Ongkasuwan, who has a joint appointment with Texas Children’s Hospital, is pioneering the use of laryngeal ultrasound (LUS) in both the pediatric and adult populations. With grant funding from the Thrasher Research Fund, she established the imaging criteria and demonstrated vocal fold immobility in neonates after congenital heart surgery. This promises to become a reliable diagnostic tool beyond flexible nasopharyngolaryngoscopy in high risk populations.
Receiving grant funding from the Texas Children’s Hospital Department of Surgery, Dr. Ongkasuwan is also exploring the use of LUS for the identification of vocal fold nodules. While the diagnosis is typically via laryngeal stroboscopy, LUS may be used to further characterize vocal fold lesions.
New Understanding of Larynx Physiology
Dr. Kenneth Altman is championing a new understanding of larynx physiology as it relates to extra esophageal reflux disease symptoms in a series of eight basic science, epidemiologic and best practice journal publications, and multiple reviews. Recent findings demonstrated the presence of the gastric H+/K+-ATPase proton pump in human larynx seromucinous glands. These findings indicate a possible source of direct acid production in the larynx, mechanism for acid-base regulation, and a site for proton pump inhibitor binding in the larynx.
Investigating Voice, Smoke and Vape
There is also great interest in laryngeal leukoplakia, where the risk of early malignancy is considered in the clinical treatment while preserving or maximizing voice outcome. In addition to clinical research to enhance early detection and minimally invasive treatments, including the KTP laser, Dr. Kenneth Altman has a pending research grant entitled “Pre-Malignant Degeneration and the Inflammatory Response to Smoke and Vape in a Murine Model of Larynx Leukoplakia.” The goal is to define immune markers in the pathologic specimen that can be used to determine clinical prognosis.