Laryngopharyngeal reflux is a controversial but increasingly made diagnosis used in patients with a collection of often non-specific laryngeal symptoms. It is a clinical diagnosis, and its pathophysiology is currently poorly understood.
Previous reflux research has focused on injurious agents, acid, pepsin and biomarker expression. Failure of intrinsic defences in the larynx may cause changes in laryngeal epithelia, particularly alterations in carbonic anhydrases and E-cadherin. Carbonic anhydrase III levels vary in the larynx in response to laryngopharyngeal reflux, depending on location. Expression of E-cadherin, a known tumour suppressor, is reduced in the presence of reflux. Mucin expression also varies according to the severity of reflux.
Further research is required to define the clinical entity of laryngopharyngeal reflux, and to identify a definitive mechanism for mucosal injury. Understanding this mechanism should allow the development of a comprehensive model, which would enable future diagnostic and therapeutic interventions to be developed.