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What Is Laryngoscopy?

Doctors sometimes use a small device to look into your throat and the larynx, or a voice box. This procedure is called laryngoscopy.

They may do this to figure out why you have a sore throat or cough, to find and remove something that's stuck in there, or to take samples of your tissue to look at later.

What Does the Larynx Do?

It helps to talk, breathe, and swallow. It's at the back of the throat and at the top of the windpipe, or trachea. It houses the vocal cords, which vibrate to make sounds as someone speaks.

When doctors need to look into the larynx and other nearby parts of the throat or put a tube into the windpipe to help someone breathe, they use a small hand tool called a laryngoscope.

Modern versions of the tool often include a small video camera.

When Do You Need a Laryngoscopy?

There are a few reasons you might need a laryngoscopy:-

Because you are having some problems with your voice or throat

This test can be performed to determine the source of symptoms in the throat or voice box (such as difficulty swallowing or breathing, voice changes, poor breath, or a persistent cough or throat pain). Laryngoscopy can also be utilized to gain a closer look at an abnormal area that was found during an imaging test (such as a CT scan).

To obtain biopsies from any suspicious areas

Biopsy samples of the vocal cords or nearby parts of the throat can be taken using laryngoscopy (to find out if an abnormal area is a cancer, for example). To collect the samples, long, thin devices such as small forceps (tweezers) are passed down the laryngoscope.

To treat some problems in the voice box (including some early cancers)

Laryngoscopy can be used to treat some problems in the vocal cords or throat. Long, thin instruments, for example, can be passed down the laryngoscope to remove small growths (tumors or polyps) on the vocal cords. A laryngoscope with a tiny laser on the end can also be used to burn away abnormal areas.

Types of Laryngoscopy

(a) Direct laryngoscopy:- This is the most involved type. Your doctor uses a laryngoscope to push down your tongue and lift up the epiglottis. That's the flap of cartilage that covers your windpipe. It opens during breathing and closes during swallowing.

Your doctor can do this to remove small growths or samples of tissue for testing. They can also use this procedure to insert a tube into the windpipe to help someone breathe during an emergency or in surgery.

Direct laryngoscopy can take up to 45 minutes. You'll be given what's called general anesthesia so that you will not be awake during the procedure. Your doctor can take out any growths in your throat or take a sample of something that might need to be checked more closely.

(b) Indirect laryngoscopy:- The doctor aims light at the back of your throat, usually by wearing headgear that has a bright light attached, and uses a small, tilted mirror held at the back of the throat to see your vocal cords.

It can be done in a doctor's office in just 5 to 10 minutes.

You'll sit in a chair while the exam is done. Your doctor might spray something into your throat to make it numb. Having something stuck in your throat might make you gag, however.

What Is It Like to Have a Laryngoscopy?

This is how a laryngoscopy usually goes before, during, and after the test. However, your experience may differ based on the reason for the test, the type of laryngoscope used, the location where the test is performed, and your overall health. Before you have this test, talk to your health care practitioner so you know what to expect and can ask questions if you have any concerns.

Before laryngoscopy:-

Make sure your doctor is aware of any medications you're taking, including vitamins, herbs, and supplements, as well as any drug allergies you may have.

Before the test, you may be advised to stop taking blood-thinning medications (including aspirin) or other medications for a few days. You may also be instructed to refrain from eating or drinking for several hours before the procedure. You will be given specific instructions by your doctor or nurse. Make sure you're following them and asking questions if you have any.

During laryngoscopy:-

Laryngoscopy can usually be done as an outpatient procedure (where you don't need to stay overnight in a hospital).

Depending on the type of test, you might need to lie on your back on a bed or table, or you might be able to sit up. Your mouth (or your nose) and throat will be sprayed first with numbing medicine. Less often, you might be asleep (under general anesthesia) for the test.

If you are awake, the insertion of the scope might make you cough at first. This will stop as the numbing drug begins to work.

Flexible laryngoscopy might only take about 10 minutes, but other types of laryngoscopy might take longer, depending on what's being done.

After laryngoscopy:-

Following the procedure, you will be closely monitored for a period of time to ensure there are no complications.

For a few hours, your mouth and throat will most likely be numb. You won't be able to eat or drink anything till the numbness has gone away. You may have a sore throat, cough (which may contain some blood at first), or hoarseness over the next day or so after the numbness has gone away.

If you had the procedure as an outpatient, you will most likely be able to go home after a few hours, but you might need a ride home because of the medicines or anesthesia you received. Many centers will not discharge people to go home in a cab or a ridesharing service, so you might need someone to help you get home. If transportation might be a problem, talk with your health care provider about the policy at your hospital or surgery center for using one of these services. There may be other resources available for getting home, depending on the situation.

In the hours following the test, your doctor or nurse should give you specific instructions on what you may and cannot do. You can suck on ice or gargle with salt water to ease a sore throat. Over-the-counter pain relievers or throat lozenges can help as well.

If biopsies were performed as part of the procedure, the results should be available in a few days, although some tests on the biopsy samples might take longer. To acquire your results, you'll need to follow up with your doctor after the procedure.

Possible Complications

It's rare to have problems after a laryngoscopy, but it can still happen. Some of these complications include:

  • Pain or swelling in the mouth, tongue, or throat
  • Bleeding
  • Hoarseness
  • Gagging or vomiting
  • Infection

If you were given anesthesia, you might feel nauseous or sleepy afterward. You might have a dry mouth or a sore throat. These are common reactions to anesthesia.

But if you find yourself in increasing pain, running a fever, coughing, or vomiting blood, having trouble breathing or swallowing, or having chest pains, you should call your doctor.

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