Laryngoscopy is a diagnostic test that uses a thin tube with a light source and camera attached at its tip (endoscope) to help the doctor inspect the respiratory tract (air passage) for problems. Laryngoscopy is preformed to examine the back of the throat and vocal cords.
Laryngoscopy is indicated for the diagnosis of diseases such as chronic cough, coughing blood, difficulty in swallowing, bad breath which does not subside, respiratory track problems in smokers, persistent throat pain and voice problems (weak voice, no voice or hoarseness, etc.) which persist for more than 3 weeks. It can also be used to extract a tissue sample from the throat for further examination or to remove any object which is blocking the airway.
You will be instructed not to eat food 6 to 12 hours prior to the procedure. The procedure is performed under local anesthesia.
Laryngoscopy can be performed in three ways:
- Direct laryngoscopy: During this procedure, an endoscope (a device with light attached) called the laryngoscope is inserted through your mouth or nose. This may be flexible or rigid. As the laryngoscope moves through the larynx, vocal cord, etc. any abnormalities in this region can be visualized. Small tissue samples can also be taken if required for further testing.
- Indirect laryngoscopy: This examination is conducted by using a mirror placed at the back of the patient’s throat to view any abnormalities. The doctor will shine a light in your mouth to reflect the light off the mirror to visualize the area. This is a simple procedure which can be done in the doctor’s office. Sometimes the throat is numbed for comfort.
- Fiberoptic laryngoscopy: This involves the use of a small flexible telescope passed through the nose and into the throat. It is a fast procedure which takes only a few minutes to perform. A numbing spray may be used prior to insertion of the scope for patient comfort.
Following the procedure, you will be discharged home on the same day or may be required to stay overnight at the hospital. Your throat may be sore and you may find it difficult to swallow for a few days, but you will be able to resume your usual diet and daily activities.
Laryngoscopy is generally safe, but like all procedures, they may be associated with some risks and complications.
The risks involved in laryngoscopy may include breathing and heart problems related to anesthesia, injuries to the tongue or lips, ulcers in the mouth or throat, vocal cord spasms, nose bleeds or infections.