Infection by a fungal organism, Histoplasma capsulatum. This organism is found in soil, especially in areas contaminated by bird or bat droppings. Sometimes it is called “spelunker’s disease,” and it seems to be commoner in the Mississippi River valley than in other areas of the United States. Persons who contract this organism may not even know it, as they may have a self-limited, mild, flu-like syndrome. As with many infections, histoplasmosis can of course be more severe and even disseminated in persons who are immunocompromised. Transmission is primarily respiratory, and the primary target is the lungs, where it can cause non-progressive granulomas. It is quite rare in the larynx.


Histoplasmosis of the larynx: Series of 4 photos

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inflamed vocal cords

Unexplained hoarseness (1 of 4)

Unexplained severe hoarseness of several months’ duration. The marked inflammatory change does not look neoplastic, yet a biopsy seemed mandatory. The pathologist’s answer? Histoplasmosis.
Histoplasmosis in the subglottis

Subglottis (2 of 4)

Note as well the involvement in the subglottis. The patient began a long course of the antifungal, itraconazole.
healed vocal cords

3 months later (3 of 4)

Still on itraconazole 3 months later, the vocal cords have healed to a great extent, and voice, while continuing to be hoarse, is at least functional. In this narrow band view, healing is indicated partly by neovascularization.
subglottic lesion

Signs of healing (4 of 4)

The subglottic lesion is also showing signs of healing as compared with photo 2.

Foreign Content in the Throat


Closeup, magnified examination finds barbecue brush bristle base of tongue: Series of 4 photos

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Pain in throat

Pain in throat (1 of 4)

While eating barbecued steak, this person felt a sharp pain deep in her throat. At this visit the next day, she continued to feel a sharp sensation, especially when swallowing. Note the faint dark line at the arrow.
abnormality in the throat

Closer view (2 of 4)

From a slightly closer vantage, the abnormality is seen better.
bristle in the throat

Bristle identified (3 of 4)

At even closer range, the bristle is identified.
bristle stuck in the esophagus

Bristle to be removed (4 of 4)

At this final view, the metallic nature of the foreign body and stuck-on carbonaceous debris can be appreciated. This bristle was removed with cup forceps through a channel scope in an office setting.

Idiopathic Subglottic Stenosis

A subtype of subglottic stenosis that is inflammatory. One view is that this entity is actually a limited expression of Wegener’s Granulomatosis (aka Granulomatosis with polyangiitis).



Idiopathic subglottic stenosis has different levels: Series of 4 photos

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dilation of idiopathic subglottic stenosis

Post dilation (1 of 4)

Six months after dilation of idiopathic (inflammatory) subglottic stenosis, the patient has noted only slight deterioration, and breathing ability remains acceptable to her.
closer view of idiopathic subglottic stenosis

Closer view (2 of 4)

At closer range, the inflammatory component appears more evident.
vascular pattern

Rich vascular pattern (3 of 4)

The rich vascular pattern accompanying the lesion is seen better and is a visual finding of inflammation.
congested capillaries

"Sharing" the airway (4 of 4)

Here, the scope has been passed through the area of maximal narrowing and the patient becomes acutely aware of greater difficulty breathing. "Sharing the airway" is a way of 'measuring' it functionally. Note again the congested capillaries.

Another way to inject idiopathic subglottic stenosis: Series of 3 photos

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idiopathic inflammatory subglottic stenosis

Idiopathic inflammatory subglottic stenosis (1 of 3)

This patient is about to receive a triamcinolone (steroid) injection into her idiopathic inflammatory subglottic stenosis, while sitting in a chair under topical anesthesia. Dotted circle is for reference with Photo 2.
infused medication into cricoid

Priot to injection (2 of 3)

A needle has been passed through anterior neck skin and its tip rests out of sight, submucosally just inferior to the anterior cricoid ring. Note that the milky white medication has been infused submucosally within the dotted ring.
needle in tracheal wall

Injection (3 of 3)

Here, the 27-gauge needle traverses the trachea in order to inject the posterior tracheal wall. The submucosal white medication appears at the *.

Subglottic stenosis

Subglottic stenosis is narrowing just below the vocal cords, in the lowest part of the larynx and immediately above the first tracheal ring. Examples of causes include scarring from a breathing tube used during a long ICU stay, Wegener’s Granulomatosis (aka Granulomatosis with polyangiitis), and idiopathic subglottic stenosis (aka limited Wegener’s Granulomatosis).

Photos of subglottic stenosis:

Subglottic stenosis, after treatment

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Subglottic stenosis

Subglottic stenosis, before treatment (1 of 2)

Subglottic and high tracheal stenosis, inflammatory, idiopathic (Lab).
Subglottic stenosis

Subglottic stenosis, after treatment (2 of 2)

Same patient, a few days after dilation and steroid injection (Lab).

Open Epidermoid Cyst

An open epidermoid cyst occurs when it spontaneously ruptures, but yet not empty all of its contents (keratin). The outline of the partially-emptied cyst may still be very evident, but it usually assumes an oval shape with the long axis oriented anteriorly and posteriorly. If the cyst empties nearly completely, the white oval is no longer seen, but the vocal cord may have a mottled appearance. If the cyst empties completely, a sulcus lined by epithelium remains.

Photos of open epidermoid cyst:

Surgical results: before and after photos

Vocal polyps:

For more info: Vocal polyps

Vocal nodules:

For more info: Vocal nodules


For more info: Cancer

Capillary ectasia:

For more info: Capillary ectasia


For more info: Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis

Vocal cord paralysis/paresis:

For more info: Paralysis or Paresis


For more info: Stenosis


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[Gallery not found]

Indicator Lesions

Indicator lesions are visual findings of vibratory injury in a person who has no current voice complaints, and whose “swelling checks” are normal.


Individuals who fit the “vocal overdoer profile” may only notice vocal limitations caused by vibratory injury on an occasional and transient basis. These episodes may be brushed off as insignificant, because they are so brief, and recovery so complete. Even while asymptomatic, however, such individuals may have subtle visual findings of vibratory injury—“Indicator lesions.” Unless discovered during a screening examination for entry to music studies, the individual may be unaware of these findings. What if indicator lesions are found? Suggested responses:

1. Make sure the individual understands that these are indicator lesions and as such constitute a “yellow flag” suggesting at least occasional overuse of voice.

2. Define the “vocal overdoer syndrome” for the person as the combination of and interaction between an expressive, talkative, extroverted personality and a “vocally busy” life. Said another way, there may be both intrinsic, personality-based and extrinsic, vocal commitment based reasons that amount and forcefulness of voice may be excessive. A 7-point talkativeness scale can be used to estimate the intrinsic risk, where “1” represents Clint Eastwood, “4” the averagely talkative person, and “7” the life of the party. The extrinsic risk is addressed by making a list of vocal commitments such as for occupation, childcare, hobbies, social activities, religious practice, athletics/ sports, and rehearsal and performance.

3. Discuss the symptom complex of mucosal injury: a) loss/ impairment of high, pianissimo singing; b) day-to-day variability of vocal clarity and capability; c) a sense of increased effort to produce voice; d) reduced mucosal endurance, or becoming “tired” vocally from amount/ manner of voice use that does not seem to induce this in others; and e) phonatory onset delays—the slight hiss of air that precedes the beginning of the sound, especially if high and soft. Speaking voice hoarseness can be a fairly late and gross symptom of mucosal injury.

4. Talk about managing the amount, manner, and spacing of voice use to reduce unnecessary wear and tear on the vocal cord mucosa.

5. Teach vocal cord swelling checks as a means of detecting even subtle injury. Respond to what they tell you!

Singers are understandably distressed when they discover even the tiniest mucosal swelling such as indicator lesions. That is because for true singers, singing is not just what they do; the term “singer” also defines who they are. So injury threatens both activity and identity. Consequently, discuss indicator lesions with great care and sensitivity. Keep in mind that some doctors speak of “small vocal nodules that do not interfere with singing.” Small nodules that are but a tiny step above indicator lesions, especially when spicule-shaped rather than fusiform, always exact a penalty to the singing voice (see #3 above), but limitations can often be concealed by warming up, and singing more loudly. Singers often say “I have a big voice that doesn’t do pianissimo.” That is, pp becomes p; mp becomes p; mf becomes f; and so forth. Alternatively, the singer considers the missing pianissimo to be a technical fault.

Photos of Indicator Lesions:

Vocal Cord Synechia

Vocal cord synechia is a strand of scar tissue that tethers the vocal cords to each other. It can prevent the vocal cords from opening fully for breathing.

A synechia can also form in other parts of the body. (Note the subglottic synechia shown below.)


Vocal Cord Synechia: before, during, and after surgery

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Post-intubation synechia

Vocal Cord Synechia (1 of 9)

Post-intubation synechia tethers the arytenoid cartilages together. This patient is tracheotomy-dependent.
Vocal cord synechia during surgery

Vocal cord synechia, during surgery (2 of 9)

Operative view of synechia ("v" of the vocal cords is inverted). Notice that the vocal cords are completely approximated because the synechia has bound them together.
Tiny forceps are separating the cords

Vocal cord synechia, during surgery (3 of 9)

Tiny forceps is separating the cords (arrows) and more clearly shows the extent of the synechia.
Micro-scissors in position to divide the synechia cleanly

Vocal cord synechia, during surgery (4 of 9)

Micro-scissors in position to divide the synechia cleanly. For perspective, the blade of the scissors is only a few millimeters long.
Vocal cord synechia

Vocal cord synechia, during surgery (5 of 9)

After division of the synechia and topical application of an anti-scarring agent.
Vocal cord synechia after surgery

Vocal cord synechia, after surgery (6 of 9)

Five days after surgery. Vocal cords are able to separate for breathing, and the tracheotomy tube can be removed. Compare with photo 1.
healed larynx after release of synechia

Vocal Cord Synechia, after surgery (7 of 9)

Completely healed larynx after release of synechia. Abduction completely restored.
vocal cords are coming together for phonation

Vocal cord synechia, after surgery (8 of 9)

As the vocal cords are coming together for phonation (not yet completely adducted).
Vocal cord synechia

Vocal cord synechia, after surgery (9 of 9)

Closer view. Can hardly see where the synechia was. Compare again with photo 1.

Ossified synechia resists thulium laser

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Ossified synechia

Ossified synechia (1 of 8)

This 75-year-old woman suffered complications after open heart surgery, and was intubated for three weeks. Nearly two years later, she remains short of breath and bothered by difficulty mobilizing secretions. On initial examination, a synechia was identified; at patient request, microlaryngoscopy was scheduled both to divide the synechia and to inject voice gel into the deficient posterior commissure. At surgery, a view sufficient to divide the synechia was not possible. The patient was rescheduled for office-based thulium laser division of the synechia.
Tip of glass fiber near the Ossified Synechia

Ossified Synechia, during first laser treatment (2 of 8)

Close-range view of the synechia. The tip of the glass fiber through which laser energy will be delivered is seen just inferior to the synechia.
Laser energy reveals bone underneath

Ossified synechia, during first laser treatment (3 of 8)

As the synechia is divided, a core of bone formation is exposed. More than half of the laser energy has been delivered to this spar of bone, yet it will not yield. The tip of the scope has also been flexed against the synechia to no avail. A second attempt with higher energy laser has been scheduled.
Ossified synechia 4 months later

Ossified synechia, 4 months later (4 of 8)

Four months later. The synechia remains, and there is residual granulation tissue on its undersurface. It's not yet known whether the spar of bone is still present. Compare with photo 2.
Second surgery attempt of thulium laser

Ossified synechia, 4 months later (5 of 8)

Now, with the thulium laser, beginning a second attempt at dividing the synechia.
Thulim laser reveals no bone remaining in ossified synechia

Ossified synechia, 4 months later (6 of 8)

The spar of bone is not found within the synechia (apparently turned to ash during the original procedure four months earlier), and now the scar band is divided. The patient could feel the difference in her breathing immediately.
synechia is now gone 6 months later

Synechia gone, 6 months later (7 of 8)

Six months after the initial laser treatment for this patient's bone-containing synechia. The synechia is now gone, with only a small residual projection remaining, left of photo. The vocal cords also separate more widely, to a wider "V".
divots from pressure necrosis of the endotracheal tube remain evident

Synechia gone, 6 months later (8 of 8)

During phonation. The divots from pressure necrosis of the endotracheal tube remain evident. In spite of them, the patient's voice is excellent.

Vocal cord synechia

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Vocal cord synechia

Vocal cord synechia (1 of 4)

Note that the vocal cords cannot fully abduct, due to the presence of a synechia, which tethers them to each other posteriorly.
Vocal cord synechia

Vocal cord synechia (2 of 4)

Same patient during phonation.
Vocal cord synechia

Vocal cord synechia (3 of 4)

Same patient at closer range.
Vocal cord synechia

Vocal cord synechia (4 of 4)

Same patient. Synechia in full view.

Intubation injury, including a subglottic synechia

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View of the vocal cords in abducted position

Intubation injury, including a subglottic synechia (1 of 2)

View of the vocal cords, in abducted position, in a patient with voice change after long-term intubation due to brain injury. Injury of the left posterior vocal cord (right of image) can be seen, where pressure from the breathing tube caused an erosion or divot (arrow). The synechia is not yet visible from this viewing perspective.
posterior synechia

Intubation injury, including a subglottic synechia (2 of 2)

Same patient, just below the level of the cords. This synechia, located posteriorly, is additional evidence of breathing tube injury.

Synechia hidden by overhanging arytenoid superstructure

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Maximum possible abduction of the vocal cords

Synechia hidden by overhanging arytenoid superstructure (1 of 4)

Maximum possible abduction of the vocal cords, as seen a few months after an illness that required endotracheal intubation for 3 weeks. This person experienced noisy breathing with any significant exertion.
involuntary inspiratory phonation

Synechia hidden by overhanging arytenoid superstructure (2 of 4)

With elicited sudden inhalation the inspiratory air draws the vocal cords together, and the result is involuntary inspiratory phonation.
overhanging arytenoid superstructure

Synechia hidden by overhanging arytenoid superstructure (3 of 4)

Close-up view of the posterior vocal cords reveal a synechia or scar band tethering the vocal cords to each other and preventing their abduction. This kind of injury can exist in isolation; it can also occur together with cricoarytenoid joint ankylosis.
Synechia hidden by overhanging arytenoid superstructure

Synechia hidden by overhanging arytenoid superstructure (4 of 4)

An even closer view of the synechia.

Nasal and inter-arytenoid synechiae, with subglottic stenosis in forme fruste Wegener’s

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inflammatory adhesion in left nasal cavity

Nasal cavity (1 of 4)

View in left nasal cavity, showing inflammatory adhesion between septum and turbinate/ lateral wall of nose. Note intense erythema at “e.” Dotted line shows where normal separation would be seen.
adhesion of septum and turbinates

Closer view (2 of 4)

Closer, brighter view, again with dotted line where there should be no tissue bridge, but instead separation between septum and turbinates. This adhesion is asymptomatic, and therefore does not need to be treated.
Panoramic view of larynx

Panoramic view (3 of 4)

Panoramic view of larynx, showing adhesion between arytenoid cartilages indicated by vertical hashed lines. Horizontal dashed line is for reference with the next photo.
interarytenoid synechia is no longer seen after dilation

Post dilation (4 of 4)

After dilation, the interarytenoid synechia is no longer seen. Subglottic stenosis is present but not shown in this series.

Ulcerative laryngitis and resulting synechia – fixed!

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a synechia attaching the cords together

Synechia (1 of 3)

This woman developed a sore throat and lost her voice a week after a chemotherapy treatment for her metastatic breast cancer. Here, 6 weeks later, note the hazy area representing resolving “ulcerative” laryngitis (surrounded by tiny dotted line). There is a synechia attaching the cords together.
slight separation of attached vocal cords

Attempted to detach (2 of 3)

The flexible scope has been used once to “twang upwards” from below in order to detach the cords from each other. At the arrow, slight separation can be seen.
adhesion has been released

Successfully detached (3 of 3)

Just after the second attempt. That is, for the second time, the scope was passed below the cords, angulated sharply underneath the synechia, and then pulled upwards. The adhesion has been released. Voice is instantly and dramatically restored (though still hoarse, of course).

Posterior Commissure Synechiae

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tissue band tethers the vocal cords closer together

Tethered vocal cords (1 of 5)

This man has right vocal cord paralysis and a history decades ago of Teflon injection into the right vocal cord, resulting in posterior commissure synechiae. He is short of breath, partly due to the tissue band and partly because it tethers the vocal cords closer together than they would otherwise need to be as seen in photo 4 after the band is removed. See also photo 5.
Tethered vocal cords

Tethered vocal cords (2 of 5)

At closer range.
thulium laser fiber is touching the synechiae

Before laser removal (3 of 5)

The thulium laser fiber (F) is touching the synechiae, with laser energy about to be delivered.
thulium laser division of the band

Immediately after laser (4 of 5)

This is just after the thulium laser division of the band using topical anesthesia only, with patient sitting in a chair.
Vocal cords free of synechiae

One month post-op (5 of 5)

A month later, no residue of the synechiae is seen, and the vocal cords can spring farther apart than in photo 1.

Difficulty Breathing After A 3-day Intubation

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granulation tissue at the posterior commissure

Noisy, restricted breathing following intubation (1 of 5)

This teenager was intubated for 3 days due to tongue swelling. Breathing became noisy and restricted approximately 6 weeks later. Note that the vocal cords do not abduct fully and there is what appears to be granulation tissue at the posterior commissure (anterior asterisk).
vocal cords come into contact

Normal voice (2 of 5)

The vocal cords can come into contact as shown here, consistent with her normal-sounding voice.
small tract is seen posterior to the granulation

At close range (3 of 5)

At very close range within the posterior commissure, a small tract is seen posterior to the "granulation" which is now seen more clearly to be a broad-based synechiae with asterisks marking anterior and posterior limits.
posterior tract

At even closer range (4 of 5)

An even closer view verifies a posterior tract, and this makes it less likely that the cricoarytenoid joints are also injured.
small superficial-looking scar

Mucosa-only scar (5 of 5)

This view is taken with the scope passed just between the vocal cords and just anterior to the synechiae and angled directly posteriorly. A small superficial-looking "mucosa-only" scar is seen bilaterally, surrounded by dotted line. It can be confidently predicted that when the synechiae is released, the arytenoid cartilages will likely be able to abduct fully.


Vocal Cord Synechia
Vocal cord synechia is a condition wherein a scar band tethers the vocal cords to each other. Therefore, the vocal cords cannot fully open for breathing. This video provides a clear example — using laryngeal videostroboscopy — of a vocal cord synechia.

Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis (RRP) and Other HPV-Induced Lesions

A disorder in which wart-like tumors or other lesions grow recurrently within a person’s airway. These growths are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), and they may occur anywhere in a person’s airway, such as on the vocal cords (by far the most common site), in the supraglottic larynx, or in the trachea. If these growths are removed, they will almost always grow back, or recur; hence, “recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.”

Symptoms and risks of recurrent respiratory papillomatosis:

RRP can be life-threatening in young children, if not carefully followed and treated, since a child’s airway is relatively narrow and can potentially be obstructed completely by the disease’s proliferative growths; moreover, RRP in children tends to grow and recur more aggressively. In adults, RRP will usually only impair voice function (when the growths occur on the vocal cords), though it can also impair breathing in severe cases. Occasionally, RRP can also progress to cancer, and therefore patients found to be at high risk for this (see below) need to be monitored carefully.

Characteristics of the growths:

The growths usually associated with RRP are wart-like tumors, or papillomas, that protrude conspicuously from the surface on which they grow, often in grape-like clusters. These kinds of papillomas are usually seen in patients who have HPV subtypes 6 or 11, which are both lower-risk subtypes for incurring cancer. There are some HPV patients, however, who manifest their HPV infection with subtler, velvety growths within the airway—“carpet-variant” growths, so to speak. Although these “carpet-variant” growths do not have the wart-like appearance of the papillomas typically associated with RRP, there at least a few key points of similarity:

  1. Both the “carpet-variant” and wart-like growths are lesions that sometimes appear, either independently or together, in patients who have HPV;
  2. Both the “carpet-variant” and wart-like growths are stippled with polka-dot vascular markings, because each “loop” in the “carpet” or each “grape” in the wart-like cluster has its own fibrovascular core, seen as a red dot;
  3. Both the “carpet-variant” and wart-like growths can disrupt voice function;
  4. Both the “carpet-variant” and wart-like growths usually recur if they are removed.

Because of these similarities, we consider these “carpet-variant” growths, even when the sole expression of the infection, to be at least a cousin to RRP, within the family of HPV-induced lesions. Many patients with this “carpet-variant” condition have HPV subtypes such as 16 or 18 that are higher-risk for cancer; such patients need to be monitored with particular care.

Treatment for recurrent respiratory papillomatosis:

The primary treatment for RRP and other HPV-induced lesions is careful, conservative surgical removal of the growths. Because these growths almost always recur, surgery must usually be performed on a repeated basis, as frequently as every few weeks in children, but on average much less often in adults. A common interval between surgeries for adult patients is between every six months and every two years, depending on how quickly the RRP or other HPV-related lesion recurs and impairs the patient’s voice function again. There are also a few medical treatments that have been used in addition to surgery, including, among others, interferon, indole-3-carbinol, intralesional mumps or MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, cidofovir, and bevacizumab.



Papillomas of the Larynx and Trachea
This video shows wart-like growths in the voicebox and windpipe (larynx and trachea) caused by chronic infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Pulsed-KTP Laser Coagulation of Vocal Cord Papillomas
See a video demonstration of laser coagulation of vocal cord papillomas.


A disorder in which the laryngeal saccule is inflated and becomes abnormally enlarged. A common symptom of a laryngocele is hoarseness.

How it develops:

The laryngeal saccule, or laryngeal appendix, is a very small blind sac—a dead-end corridor, so to speak—which is located just above the vocal cords, one on each side, and is lined with glands that supply lubrication to the cords. When a person makes voice, it is possible for a little bit of the air being pushed up out of the trachea to slip into this saccule. If over time enough air enters the saccule with enough force, the saccule may begin to be inflated and stretched out, leading to a laryngocele.

In some cases, the air that slips into and inflates the laryngocele will slip back out again as soon as the person stops making voice, so that the laryngocele abruptly inflates and deflates with each start and stop of speech or voice-making. (The photos and video below are an example of this.) In other cases, the air cannot exit as easily, but it may be reabsorbed slowly during quiet times or during sleep—only to be inflated again at the next instance of more active speaking.

Laryngocele vs. saccular cyst:

A much more common disorder of the laryngeal saccule (compared with a laryngocele) is a saccular cyst, which can occur if the entrance to the laryngeal saccule becomes blocked. In this scenario, air is absorbed, but secretions build up and gradually expand the saccule.

Symptoms and treatment for laryngocele:

A common symptom is hoarseness, because while the saccule is inflated, it may press press down on the vocal cords, not allowing them to vibrate freely, or it may block the laryngeal vestibule just above the cords and partially muffle the sound produced by the cords. Standard treatment is surgical removal, through one of two approaches: a small incision on the neck that leads into the larynx from the outside, or a laryngoscope that is inserted through the mouth and down into the larynx so that the laryngocele can be removed using a laser.



Laryngocele: A Cause of Hoarseness
A laryngocele is a disorder of the saccule, or laryngeal appendix, in which air abnormally expands it. Watch this video to see how a laryngocele behaves in real-time, and why that can affect the voice.