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What is Laryngoscopy?

By H. Lo
Updated May 17, 2024
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Laryngoscopy is a medical procedure in which a doctor visually examines the larynx and the back of the throat. This procedure might be performed for a variety of reasons. For example, it might be used to diagnose breathing, swallowing or vocal problems. In addition, it might also be used to diagnose throat or ear problems. Generally, the procedure can be done in a doctor’s office, but sometimes it might be performed during surgery.

There are two types of laryngoscopy examinations: indirect and direct. Indirect laryngoscopy takes about five to ten minutes to complete and involves the use of a mirror. The doctor takes a mirror and holds it at the back of the patient’s throat while shining a light to enable better vision. To help the doctor see the patient’s vocal cords, the patient might be asked to make certain sounds. Indirect laryngoscopy can be uncomfortable for the patient; the tongue is held down and some people might gag.

Indirect laryngoscopy is useful, but with the advances in technology, direct laryngoscopy has made throat examinations easier for the doctor and less uncomfortable for the patient. Due to this, indirect laryngoscopy is not used as much as it was in the past. Direct laryngoscopy involves the use of either a flexible or rigid laryngoscope. A laryngoscope is a medical instrument that is inserted through the nose or mouth and allows the doctor to gain a better view of the throat. A flexible, or fiber-optic, laryngoscope might be used in the doctor’s office while a rigid laryngoscope might be used during surgery.

If needed in surgery, a rigid laryngoscope might also be used to remove foreign objects or to collect tissue samples for testing. The patient is put to sleep under anesthesia while the doctor uses the rigid laryngoscope. Afterward, the patient might have a sore throat if the doctor put the instrument down the throat to remove or collect material. This surgical procedure can take between 15 and 30 minutes to complete.

There are some risks associated with undergoing this medical procedure including possible swelling or blockage of the airway. Bleeding or infection might also occur if the doctor took a tissue sample. Though bleeding is normal if the doctor did indeed take a tissue sample, if the patient experiences excessive bleeding or bleeding that doesn’t stop after 24 hours, he should seek medical attention. Another time to talk to a doctor might be if the patient has trouble breathing or exhibits signs of infection.

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