OBJECTIVE - To examine the distribution of clinic and operative pathology in a tertiary care laryngology practice.
METHODS - Probability density and cumulative distribution analyses (Pareto analysis) was used to rank order laryngeal conditions seen in an outpatient tertiary care laryngology practice and those requiring surgical intervention during a 3-year period.
RESULTS - Among 3783 new clinic consultations and 1380 operative procedures, voice disorders were the most common primary diagnostic category seen in clinic (n = 3223), followed by airway (n = 374) and swallowing (n = 186) disorders. Within the voice strata, the most common primary ICD-9 code used was dysphonia (41%), followed by unilateral vocal fold paralysis (UVFP) (9%) and cough (7%). Among new voice patients, 45% were found to have a structural abnormality. The most common surgical indications were laryngotracheal stenosis (37%), followed by recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (18%) and UVFP (17%).
CONCLUSIONS - Nearly 55% of patients presenting to a tertiary referral laryngology practice did not have an identifiable structural abnormality in the larynx on direct or indirect examination. The distribution of ICD-9 codes requiring surgical intervention was disparate from that seen in clinic. Application of the Pareto principle may improve resource allocation in laryngology, but these initial results require confirmation across multiple institutions.