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High-Tech Laser Treatment Removes Vocal Cord Polyps Without Surgery


A local physician is making history with an advanced technology to treat problems with vocal cords, and people are coming to San Antonio from around the country for the procedure.

Dr. Blake Simpson at UT Medicine San Antonio, the clinical practice of the School of Medicine at the Health Science Center, specializes in voice disorders and for the last six years has used a procedure to remove polyps and other growths on the vocal cords using a laser fiber.

"We apply the laser energy to that polyp. It doesn’t usually burn it, like you think of a laser heating up something and making it evaporate - it doesn’t really do that. Instead, it seals off the blood vessels to the polyp, and what happens is once you interrupt the blood supply to something, it gradually shrinks and goes away," Simpson said.

Simpson said the procedure is less invasive than older methods of polyp removal. It is painless, so no general anesthesia is needed. The recovery time is six to eight weeks shorter than surgery.

Until recently, the UT Health Science Center clinic where Simpson does the procedure has been the only place in Texas where people could get the treatment. He said doctors in Houston and Dallas have just acquired the equipment.

Simpson recently treated the singer who plays at Durty Nelly’s, and said he has performed the procedure on "tons of singers" from around the state, including Austin.

"Singers that are professional singers – people that are not able to get the care they need in Austin, which is surprising. You would think Austin, being such a music city, would have someone that’s a voice expert, but surprisingly they don’t. So we have people that come in that are highly successful in the music industry that come to San Antonio for their voice care," he said.

The 15-minute procedure happens in a clinic, and Simpson said it can remove almost any type of vocal cord growth except cancer. He said insurance covers the procedure that costs about $1,000.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.