The research interests of Dale C. Ekbom, M.D., and his team include all aspects of laryngology and specifically voice, swallowing and airway research.
One focus within voice research is to understand and study best treatments for vocal cord paralysis. In terms of swallowing, Dr. Ekbom compares surgical options of Zenker's diverticulum and performs research on improved techniques. From a breathing standpoint, subglottic and tracheal narrowing (stenosis) are complex diseases, often without a known cause.
Dr. Ekbom studies inflammatory markers of these diseases and evaluates and compares surgical and medical treatment options. He works with a multidisciplinary research team, including basic science professionals, gastroenterologists, neurologists, pulmonologists, and speech and language pathologists.
- Vocal cord paralysis. Dr. Ekbom works with jellyfish collagen to create a better and long-lasting injectable to improve voices. Additionally, he is evaluating quality of life for patients with vocal cord paralysis and the best treatment options — specifically with surgery — with a large clinical database.
- Zenker's diverticulum. There is controversy over the best surgical options for patients with Zenker's diverticulum. Dr. Ekbom is part of a multicenter trial comparing endoscopic to open techniques, which includes collaboration with gastroenterologists to evaluate flexible or rigid techniques. The research team has developed a unique surgical technique that has shown promise due to improved postoperative results.
- Subglottic stenosis. At Mayo Clinic, the usual approach to treating subglottic stenosis involves CO2 carbon dioxide laser wedge excisions, steroid injections and no dilation. Other centers use the endoscopic technique of dilation. Mayo Clinic's research-driven approach has resulted in longer intervals between needed surgeries and, overall, improved breathing and voice. Additional ongoing research includes evaluating inflammatory markers, such as interleukin (IL)-17 and IL-23 proteins, to look for the cause of this disease.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Ekbom's goal is to translate his research into clinical practice, resulting in better swallowing outcomes for patients with Zenker's diverticulum, improved voice after vocal cord paralysis surgery and enhanced long-term breathing in airway surgery.
He is grateful to be working toward these goals with a multidisciplinary research team at Mayo Clinic, focusing on the larynx and its unique challenges.