Laryngoscopy Explained

Laryngoscopy Explained

Steven Cumper

Steven Cumper

Published in MedShop Blog

0 min read

February 28, 2023

A lot of medical terms can sound scary and confusing at first. Understanding exactly what’s involved in various examinations and tests can help to demystify the process and allow you to prepare properly for your procedure. 

A laryngoscopy is a type of examination that’s focussed specifically on your voice box, or larynx. The larynx is positioned between your throat and your windpipe. During the procedure, a laryngoscope is gently inserted into the larynx to allow clinicians a closer look at the vocal cords and area around the larynx.

Although it’s a very common otolaryngology procedure, you may still be concerned if you’ve been advised you need a laryngoscopy. To help put your mind at ease, and help you understand exactly what to expect, we’re taking an in depth look at laryngoscopies.


The Larynx Explained

The larynx (voice box) is a small but vital part of your respiratory system. Sitting between your trachea (airway) and your throat, it contains your vocal cords, also known as your vocal folds. It’s your vocal cords that allow you to speak and sing. Any damage to this area could affect your ability to communicate.

Just at the top of your larynx you’ll find the epiglottis. The epiglottis is a small flap of tissue that sits beneath the tongue at the back of the throat. It’s usually open and upright to allow air to pass into your larynx and windpipe. However, when you eat or drink, the epiglottis folds backwards to cover the entrance to the larynx so that food and water don’t get into your airway.


Types of Laryngoscopy

Meister Surgical Laryngoscope Blades Laryngoscope Single Use Mac Blades

There are three main types of laryngoscopy. These are: direct, indirect and fibreoptic. The procedure used will depend on your symptoms and on your doctor’s initial diagnoses.

An indirect laryngoscopy is a quick and simple procedure that can be carried out in a doctor’s office. During an indirect laryngoscopy, a small mirror is placed at the back of the throat and a light is shone into the patient’s mouth. This allows the doctor to examine the larynx, vocal cords, and hypopharynx. Though non-invasive, this technique can cause gagging and so is not commonly used with children as they find it difficult to tolerate.

A fibreoptic laryngoscopy, also known as a flexible laryngoscopy, is used when doctors need to see more deeply into the throat. During a fibreoptic laryngoscopy, a cable is inserted into the nose and then down into the throat. This cable has a small telescope or video camera at its end, allowing doctors to closely examine all parts of the larynx. 

During a direct laryngoscopy, your doctor will use a laryngoscope to push down your tongue and lift your epiglottis. This allows direct access to the larynx. This method is most commonly used when doctors need to take a tissue sample or when they need to insert a tube into the windpipe to help the patient breathe. This type of laryngoscopy is often carried out in an operating room by a specialist otolaryngologist under general anaesthetic.


Reasons You May Need a Laryngoscopy 

There are a number of reasons why your doctor may want to perform a laryngoscopy. One of the most common reasons for a laryngoscopy is a persistent sore throat. A laryngoscopy will allow your doctor to take a closer look at the affected area to see if they can spot the underlying issue. Other reasons for a laryngoscopy include:

  • A cough that won’t go away
  • Hoarseness
  • Bad breath
  • A foreign object stuck in the throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • A persistent earache
  • Surgical procedures such as the removal of a growth, or tissue biopsy
  • Voice problems
  • Ongoing throat pain
  • Laryngitis


How to Prepare for a Laryngoscopy 

Armo Surgical Instruments McIntosh / Fiber Optic Xenon Armo Laryngoscope Set

If your doctor has said you need a laryngoscopy, the first thing you’ll need to do is find out which type of procedure will be carried out. If you’re having an indirect laryngoscopy, you won’t need to do a lot of preparation. Your doctor will simply use a mirror and light to carry out a short examination of the larynx to check the overall area. 

If you’re having a fibreoptic laryngoscopy, your health care provider may give you some numbing medicine to make you more comfortable during the procedure. Numbing the area can make it easier for the doctor to pass the telescope into your windpipe and can help to prevent gagging. 

A direct laryngoscopy requires a little more preparation. If you’re having general anaesthesia, you may need to fast for a while before the procedure. You might also need to avoid taking certain medications in the run up to the examination. You may feel a little lightheaded after a direct laryngoscopy, especially if you’ve had a general anaesthetic, so make sure you have someone else drive you home.

If the purpose of your laryngoscopy was to take biopsies of suspicious growths or tumours, you can expect a follow-up appointment in the days or weeks after your surgery.

Like an endoscopy, a laryngoscopy allows doctors to see deep inside your body without the need for major surgery. This lets medical professionals diagnose and treat a wide range of issues quickly and easily. Learn more about laryngoscopies, laryngoscopes and other medical instruments and procedures by taking a look around or getting in touch with a member of our team.

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