Laryngopharyngeal Reflux

Dr. Matthew Smith explains what laryngopharyngeal reflux is and how surgery can help.

What is laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)?

Laryngopharyngeal reflux is quite similar to gastroesophageal reflux. They're related in a lot of ways, but I think this is a disease that's less well published and not commonly talked about. Some patients say, "Doc, after I eat I get this bad cough, or I wake up with all this phlegm in my throat. I cough, and I can't get this stuff out. I have a lot of hoarseness to my voice. I have a sore throat every morning when I wake up. Sometimes, I wake up with a sour taste in my mouth." Some of those can be related to reflux, but also those are related to what we call laryngopharyngeal reflux or LPR. Those symptoms a lot of times are from acid or just non-acid exposure coming up your esophagus, and they hit your vocal cords back here, and they cause inflammation.

What symptoms of LPR will go away after surgery?

After they have surgery, they end up saying, "Man, I feel great" afterwards. "I no longer have a hoarse voice. I no longer have this ear pain that I was struggling with. My sinuses got better now." Sometimes all those don't go away. Sometimes they're from actual sinus problems or actual ear problems. But as long as the diagnosis is made correctly, a lot of those patients have a much better quality of life after getting reflux surgery. And truthfully, it takes a while for those patients to get better. I usually tell them after one to three months if you're still having a sore throat, some cough, or hoarseness of voice, don't worry about it. Let's wait it out; let's see how we do. But usually they come back in, and it's honestly one of my favorite ones to treat just because they feel so much better, and they're like, "I can talk to people!"