PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to identify the possible alteration in the thickness of the epithelium basal membrane of the vocal cords and correlate it with the cause of death. METHOD: Larynxes collected from adult autopsies during the period of 1993 to 2001 were utilized. We used the hematoxylin-eosin and periodic acid-Schiff staining methods for the morphological and morphometric analysis. RESULTS: Sixty-six vocal cords were analysed; increased thickness was identified in 14 cases (21.2%), with equal proportions between the genders. Increased vocal-cord thickness was more frequent in patients of the white ethnicity (12 cases, 85.7%). Respiratory alterations were found in 10 (71.4%) of the cases with increased vocal-cord thickness. Of the patients that were maintained with mechanical ventilation before death, 7 (18.4%) had thickening of the basal membrane. Among the smokers, 9 (19.63%) had basal membrane thickening. CONCLUSION: No statistically significant differences were found between the cases in which the cause of death was related to respiratory diseases as compared to non-respiratory diseases and the thickening of the basal membrane of the vocal cords. However, new studies are needed in order to verify the etiopathogenesis of this thickening.
Adults; Autopsy; Basal membrane; Thickness; Vocal cords