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Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis

Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis

What is Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis?

Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) refers to recurrent wart-like growths on the surface of the vocal cords or tissue around the vocal cords. Caused by specific types of the human papilloma virus (HPV), RRP is typically benign, but because the virus persists in the tissue, RRP tends to recur even after the growths are removed. 

The location of the papilloma determines what symptoms are experienced: Growths on the vocal cords often cause voice changes, and if the lesions become very large they can cause trouble breathing. 

How is Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis Diagnosed?

Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis can be suspected based on how the vocal cords look on exam. A biopsy is often performed to both confirm the diagnosis of RRP and also to make sure that the lesions show no pre-cancerous changes.

Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis Treatment

Treatment of recurrent respiratory papillomatosis centers on careful removal of the lesions without damaging the underlying components of the vocal cords that allow vibration and voice production. Our experts have expertise in treating RRP lesions with lasers, which allows precise removal of the lesions while limiting long-term damage to normal vocal fold tissue. KTP laser treatments can be performed in-office or in the operating room – the size and location of the lesions will help you and your treatment team to decide which approach is most appropriate for you. Other treatments designed to be used with surgery are available (anti-viral or blood-vessel growth limiting medications) and are a subject on ongoing research – your treatment team will again discuss whether these additional treatments are appropriate for you. 

While surgery treats the symptoms of RRP by removing or reducing the size of the lesions, it does not treat the underlying cause (HPV infection). RRP commonly causes recurrent lesions, so it is important to receive frequent examinations and, if necessary, undergo multiple surgeries to limit the effects of RRP on the voice box.

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