Detrimental effects of the natural aging process on the human cricoarytenoid joint have been hypothesized as a possible etiology for the voice changes seen in the aging population. Cellular events occurring at the histologic level, such as cricoarytenoid joint erosion or arthritis may lead to alterations in laryngeal structure which ultimately affect its function and performance. Seven normal human larynges of varying ages ranging from 29 to 69 years of age were examined histopathologically for changes in the cricoarytenoid joint. The synovium, joint space, periarticular muscle, and respiratory epithelium were evaluated for the presence of inflammatory changes or edema and degree of vascularity. The location and amount of ossification, elastin, and collagen formation were also noted. There were no appreciable changes noted in the synovium or joint space itself with increasing age. No differences were observed in the degree of elastin or collagen formation. However, there was progressive cricoid and arytenoid ossification and periarticular muscular atrophy and fibrosis. These findings suggest that other laryngeal changes may play a greater role in determining senescent vocal quality rather than changes within the cricoarytenoid joint itself.
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