Laryngoscopy investigation

What is laryngoscopy?

Laryngoscopy is an examination of your throat using a thin tube called a laryngoscope. This tube has a tiny light and lens on the tip and works like a telescope. The tube is passed down your throat as far as your vocal cords and voice box (larynx).

Rigid laryngoscopy can help to find out why your throat feels sore, or why you are having difficulty breathing or swallowing, or have lost your voice.

Rigid laryngoscopy allows your surgeon to examine the throat and take a tissue sample (a biopsy) or give treatment (for example laser surgery) at the same time. It is usually done as a day-case procedure under general anaesthesia, which means you will be asleep during the examination.

Laryngoscopy can also be done as an out-patient procedure under local anaesthesia using a flexible laryngoscope. This is generally more suited to check-ups and diagnosing problems rather than treatment.

Your surgeon will explain the benefits and risks of having a laryngoscopy and will also discuss any alternatives to the procedure.

About the procedure

Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, your mouth is held open and your surgeon will carefully pass the laryngoscope down your throat

Your surgeon will examine the area and take a biopsy if required. If a biopsy is taken, this will be sent to the laboratory for tests. The procedure usually takes about 20 minutes.

You will usually get your test results straight away. Your surgeon will explain what the results mean and, if necessary, discuss further treatment options.  Alternatively, you can ask for the results in writing.

If you have had a biopsy, your surgeon may ask you to attend a follow-up appointment to discuss the results and further treatment options.

After the examination, your throat may feel a little sore. Painkillers, sucking on throat lozenges or gargling with salt water can help to ease any discomfort. You may also lose your voice. These symptoms should settle within a couple of days.

Having a laryngoscopy is generally a safe procedure. For most people, the benefits of having a clear diagnosis are much greater than any disadvantages. However, like all invasive medical procedures, there are some risks.

There is a slight risk that a laryngoscope may cause your airway to become blocked, stopping you breathing. This risk is greater if you already have a partially blocked airway for any reason. If your airway does become blocked, the doctor may have to make an emergency cut in the front of your neck to help you breathe, called a tracheotomy.

There is a slight risk that the laryngoscope may damage your teeth as it is passed through your mouth. Please tell your surgeon if you have any loose teeth or crowns, so that he/she  can take extra care around them.

If a biopsy is done, there is a small risk of bleeding, infection or damage to the airway.

The chance of complications depends on the extent of your examination and other factors such as your general health. Ask your surgeon to explain how any risks apply to you.

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