Laryngoscopy: Indications, Types, Preparation, Possible Complications and Follow-up

Doctors sometimes use a small device to examine your throat, larynx, or voice box.

This procedure is called a laryngoscopy. They can do this to find out why you have a cough or sore throat , to find and remove something that is stuck there, or to sample your tissue for later viewing.

What does the larynx do?

Allows or helps to speak, breathe and swallow. It is in the back of the throat and at the top of the windpipe. Houses your vocal cords, which vibrate to make sounds as you speak.

When doctors need to examine your larynx and other nearby parts of your throat or put a tube in your windpipe to help you breathe, they use a small hand-held tool called a laryngoscope .

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

Indications

Your doctor can do this to find out why you have a sore throat that does not go away or to diagnose an ongoing problem such as coughing, hoarseness, or bad breath.

It can also be done when:

  • There is something stuck in your throat.
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Earache that does not go away.
  • Something that could be a sign of a more serious health problem, such as cancer, will be tested.
  • A tumor will be removed.

Types of laryngoscopy

There are several ways that your doctor can perform this procedure:

Indirect laryngoscopy – This is the simplest way. Your doctor uses a small mirror and light to examine your throat. The mirror is on a long handle, like the one a dentist often uses, and is placed against the roof of the mouth.

The doctor applies a light to the mouth to see the image in the mirror. It can be done in a doctor’s office in just 5 to 10 minutes.

You will sit in a chair while the exam is finished. Your doctor may spray something down your throat to make it numb. However, having something stuck in your throat can cause you to gag.

Direct Fiberoptic Laryngoscopy : Many doctors now do this type, sometimes called flexible laryngoscopy. She uses a small telescope on the end of a wire, which goes up her nose and down her throat.

It takes less than 10 minutes. You will get a numbing medicine for your nose. Sometimes a decongestant is also used to open the nasal passages. Arch is a common reaction with this procedure as well.

Direct laryngoscopy: Your doctor uses a laryngoscope to push down on the tongue and lift the epiglottis. That’s the cartilage flap that covers your windpipe. It opens during breathing and closes during swallowing.

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

Direct laryngoscopy can take up to 45 minutes. You will be given what is called a general anesthetic, so that you are not awake during the procedure. Your doctor can remove any growths in your throat or take a sample of something that may need a more detailed review.

Preparation

Your doctor may want to do X-rays or other imaging tests before a laryngoscopy.

Possible complications

Problems after laryngoscopy are rare, but can still occur. Some of these complications include:

  • Pain or swelling in the mouth, tongue, or throat.
  • Ronquera.
  • Retching or vomiting
  • Infection.

If you were given anesthesia, you may feel nauseous or sleepy after the procedure. You may have a dry mouth or a sore throat. These are common reactions to anesthesia.

But if you find yourself with increased pain, fever, cough or vomiting of blood, have trouble breathing or swallowing, or have chest pains, you should call your doctor.

Follow-up care

You can suck on ice or gargle with salt water to ease a sore throat. Over-the-counter pain relievers or throat lozenges can also help.

If the doctors took a tissue sample, the results may take 3 to 5 days to receive.