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Department of Otolaryngology Research

The Department of Otolaryngology researchers are actively pursuing state-of-the-art research within their fields of interest. Drexel has become recognized as a world leader in diagnosis and treatment of voice and hearing disorders. The Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery attracts patients (including celebrities) from throughout the world and has already generated a substantial number of publications, grants, new surgical procedures, and new instruments. Hence, Drexel now has exceptional clinical experience and clinical research expertise. Medical students are encouraged to participate in research activities.

One of our primary interests is the development of a complex, synthetic-biological interface. The absence of such technology represents the limiting factor in hearing restoration for deaf patients who receive cochlear implants (such as Rush Limbaugh). Robert Sataloff, MD, DMA, chair of the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, was one of the original 20 co-investigators in the cochlear implant project and has remained actively involved in cochlear implant surgery and research. He strongly believes not only that creating an appropriate synthetic-biological interface is necessary for much further improvement in hearing in patients with cochlear implants, but also that the same technology would have application for restoration of sensory function in patients with blindness, loss of taste and smell, and other sensory deficits.

Interdisciplinary research to improve voice diagnosis and treatment has extraordinary potential at Drexel. Numerous promising areas have been identified including, among others:

  1. Development of improved technology for quantifying voice function, to permit accurate measurements of outcomes of various voice treatments. This will involve utilization of aerospace signal detection technology, applied through self-educating computer systems. A relationship has already been established between the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and the Department of Engineering (Drs. Robert Sataloff and Youngmoo Kim) whose interests are similar, and whose skills are complementary. If successful, this research could revolutionize voice diagnosis, and could also produce new equipment that would be used in most otolaryngology offices.
  2. Vocal fold scarring is responsible for most prolonged voice impairment. Wound healing research for the vocal fold needs to concentrate on prevention (alteration of the wound healing environment through genetic regulation of microscopic components of the vocal fold, and other approaches), identification of at-risk patients (identification of a target gene and development of screening technology), and restoration of function in voice for patients who already have scarred vocal folds (development of new implant materials to improve upon surgery already invented and published by Dr. Sataloff, as well as development of techniques for genetically re-engineering the superficial layer of the vocal fold), and approaches to other problems. This research overlaps with wound healing research in other departments. The Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery already has clinical research experience, as well as physicians experienced in conducting clinical trials. However, collaboration with basic science departments (such as the Department of Microbiology and Immunology) is necessary for the genetic research, as well as collaboration with the College of Engineering for development of suitable materials.
  3. Geriatric medicine has great importance and growing interest. Vocal aging is particularly important since, even if people spend $15,000 for facelifts and other cosmetic procedures, they will be recognized as elderly if their voices still sound "old." Much of the original attention to this problem has come from Philadelphia, and clinical leaders are currently within Drexel's Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. An American Society of Geriatric Otolaryngology has been created and held its first meeting in San Diego in April 2007 (Dr. Sataloff is a founding board member). Addressing issues of vocal aging and its treatment has potential application for a rapidly growing segment of the American population.
  4. Human performance research is of interest to researchers and clinicians in nearly all specialties, as well as to musicians, dancers, artists, and athletes. Voice medicine was developed primarily through interest in professional singers and actors. The Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery attracts celebrities internationally who travel to Philadelphia for care. The College of Medicine is currently in the process of establishing an arts medicine center to care for problems of performers, visual artists, and others. It is anticipated that there will also be a tuition-based academic graduate program in arts medicine developed in the near future. The area of human performance also offers numerous possibilities for interdisciplinary research, and development of new technology.

Current IRB Projects in the Department of Otolaryngology

  • Genetic susceptibility in recurrent respiratory papillomatosis
  • Randomized controlled trial of voice on children with vocal nodules
  • Effects of inhalant allergy in patients with laryngeal complaints
  • A study of treatment of subjective tinnitus with a 5-day continuous intravenous lidocaine infusion
  • Efficacy of allograft fascia lata in tympanoplasty procedures
  • Frequency of laryngeal papilloma recurrence requiring surgical intervention pre- and post-intralesion cidofovir treatment
  • Tracheotomy care comparison study
  • Pattern of blood flow in the neovascularization of vocal fold masses: a pilot study
  • Intubation using a 5.0 endotracheal tube without a stylet during laryngeal surgery
  • Motivation in computer assisted learning
  • Characteristics of hearing loss in singers
  • HLA genotype & otosclerosis
  • Laryngomalacia and supraglottoplasty in an adult female (case study)
  • The prevalence of sulcus vocalis in professional and nonprofessional voice users in the presence and absence of voice complaints
  • Incidence and effects of Helicobacter pylori infection in patients with laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)
  • Efficacy of a comprehensive neurotologic evaluation
  • Pilot study to evaluate optical frequency domain imaging as a tool for assessing infections of the ear and throat
  • Pilot study to evaluate optical frequency domain imaging as a tool for assessing laryngeal tissue pathology
  • Impact of pre-service vocal hygiene instruction on the vocal health of teachers
  • Utility of obtaining audiograms in asymptomatic patients presenting with voice complaints
  • Retrospective review of laryngeal findings in asymptomatic singers
  • Evaluating the quality and readability of swallowing treatment information on the Internet (no human subjects - letter of determination)
  • Evaluating the quality and readability of thyroplasty information on the Internet (no human subjects - letter of determination)

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This clinical practice is independent of Drexel University.

Doctor performing a throat exam on a young female patient.