Scanning Electron Microscopy of the Presbylarynx

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Abstract

Objective

To describe the findings on the presbylarynx under scanning electron microscopy.

Study Design

Cadaver study.

Setting

Universidade Estadual Paulista (Botucatu, São Paulo, Brazil).

Subjects and Methods

Sixteen vocal folds were removed during necropsies and distributed into 2 age groups: control (n = 8; aged 30-50 years) and elderly (n = 8; aged 75-92 years). The right vocal fold was dissected, fixed in glutaraldehyde 2.5%, and prepared for scanning electron microscopy. The thickness of the epithelium was measured using a scandium morphometric digital program.

Results

In the control group, the epithelium had 5 to 7 overlapped cell layers, rare desquamation cells, and little undulation with protruding intercellular junctions. The lamina propria showed a uniform network of collagen and elastic fibers in the superficial layer. A dense network of collagen was identified in the deeper layer. In the elderly group, the epithelium was atrophic (2-3 cells), with more desquamation cells and intercellular junctions delimited by deep sulci. The epithelial thickness was lower in elderly than in controls (mean [SD], 221.64 [145.90] µm vs 41.79 [21.40] µm, respectively). The lamina propria had a dense and irregular distribution of collagen and elastic fibers in the superficial layer. In the deep layers, the collagen fibers formed a true fibrotic and rigid skeleton.

Conclusion

Scanning electron microscopy identified several changes in the elderly larynx, differentiating it from the controls. These alterations are probably related to the aging process of the vocal folds. However, the exact interpretation of these findings requires additional studies, even to the molecular level, having the fibroblasts as targets.

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