What is Mediastinoscopy?

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  • Written By: K T Solis
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2018
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Mediastinoscopy is a medical procedure that is performed in order to examine the interior of the upper chest. This procedure is performed to determine if a patient has lung cancer or lymphoma. It is also used to diagnose tuberculosis or determine if patients are suffering from other lung problems.

When a surgeon performs a mediastinoscopy on a patient, a small incision is made on the left side of the chest near the breastbone or above the breastbone area. A scope called a mediastinoscope is placed in the opening. The mediastinoscope is then used to extract a tissue sample, also called a biopsy. The doctor can then study the extracted tissue beneath a microscope in order to determine if a patient has lung cancer, lung infection or some other type of lung problem.

Before a mediastinoscopy is performed, the doctor will require the patient to sign a consent form, granting permission for the doctor to conduct the surgery. Patients who take insulin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or aspirin will need to consult with the doctor before undergoing this particular type of surgery, since these medicines can affect the blood's ability to clot. Those who have bleeding problems will also need to notify the doctor of this health concern. Pregnant women and people who are allergic to certain medicines will also need to discuss these factors with the doctor before undergoing a mediastinoscopy.


When the procedure is performed, an intravenous line, or IV, is placed inside the patient's vein for the patient to receive medication through it. After the patient has fallen asleep, a tube is placed down the patient's throat to help him or her breathe during the surgery. Next, an incision is made in the breastbone area or just above the breastbone.

The mediastinoscope is placed inside the opening so that the surgeon can examine the space between the lungs and heart. Tissue or lymph nodes are collected by the scope so that the doctor can examine them beneath a microscope. Finally, stitches are used to close the opening and a bandage is placed on the area.

Patients can usually go home a few hours after the surgery, but other patients may have to remain in the hospital for up to two days following the procedure. As with all surgeries, sometimes complications may arise. For example, on rare occasions, patients may experience bleeding, a collapsed lung, blood vessel damage, a torn esophagus or a damaged voice box. Complications after the procedure may include fever, chest pain, swelling, breathing difficulties or difficulty in swallowing. It's important that patients seek immediate medical attention if they experience any of these symptoms following surgery.



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