A laryngoscopy is an exam that gives your doctor a detailed view of your larynx and throat. The larynx is your voice box. It’s situated at the top of your windpipe or trachea.
It’s necessary to keep your larynx healthy because it contains your vocal cords. Air passing through your larynx and over the vocal cords causes them to vibrate and produce sound. This gives you the ability to speak.
During the exam, your doctor will place a small mirror into your throat or insert a viewing device called a laryngoscope into your mouth. Sometimes, they’ll do both.
Why would I need a laryngoscopy?
Laryngoscopy is used to learn more about several problems in your throat, including:
- Persistent cough
- Bloody cough
- Throat pain
- Bad breath
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Persistent ear ache
- Growth in the throat
Preparing for a laryngoscopy
You’ll want to arrange for a ride to and from the medical procedure. You may not be able to drive for some hours after having anesthesia.
Talk to your doctor about how they will carry out the procedure and what you need to do to prepare. Your doctor will ask you to avoid food and drink for eight hours prior to the exam depending on what kind of anesthesia you’ll be getting.
If you’re receiving mild anesthesia, which is normally the kind you would get if the exam were happening in your doctor’s office, there’s no need to fast.
Inform your doctor about any medications you’re taking. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines, including aspirin and certain blood thinning drugs up to one week before the procedure. Check with your doctor to be sure it is safe to stop any prescribed medication before doing so.
How does a laryngoscopy work?
Your doctor may carry out some tests before the laryngoscopy to get a better idea of your symptoms. These tests may include:
- Physical exam
- Chest X-ray
- CT scan
- Barium swallow
If your doctor wants you to do a barium swallow, X-rays will be taken after you drink a liquid that contains the barium. This element acts as a contrast material and lets your doctor see your throat more clearly. It’s not toxic or dangerous and will pass through your system within some hours of swallowing it.
Laryngoscopy normally takes between five and 45 minutes. There are 2 types of laryngoscopy tests: indirect and direct.
For indirect method, you’ll sit up straight in a high back chair. A local anesthetic will normally be sprayed on your throat. Your doctor will cover your tongue with gauze to keep it from blocking their view.
Next, your doctor will insert a mirror into your throat and check the area. You might be asked to make a certain sound. This is intended to make your larynx move. If you have a foreign object in your throat, your doctor will take it out.
The direct laryngoscopy can occur in the hospital or your doctor’s office and usually you’re completely sedated under expert supervision. You won’t feel the test if you’re under general anesthesia.
A small flexible telescope goes into your nose or mouth and then down your throat. Your doctor will be able to look through the telescope to get a closer view of the larynx. Your doctor can take samples and remove growths or objects. This test may be done if you gag easily or if your doctor needs to check out harder-to-see areas in your larynx.
Interpreting the results
During your laryngoscopy, your doctor may collect samples, remove growths or pull out a foreign object. A biopsy may also be taken. After the medical procedure, your doctor will discuss the results and treatment options or refer you to another doctor. If you received a biopsy, it will take three to five days to get the results.
Are there any side effects from a laryngoscopy?
There is a low risk of complications associated with the exam. You may experience some minor irritation on the soft tissue in your throat afterward, but this test is considered very safe.
Give yourself time to recuperate if you’re given general anesthesia in a direct laryngoscopy. It should take about 2 hours to wear off and avoid driving during this time.
Talk to your doctor if you’re nervous about the test, and they’ll let you know about any steps you have to take beforehand.
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