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by Jones P

Definition

A laryngoscopy is a procedure that allows the doctor to see deep in the throat. Flexible laryngoscopy is one type. It uses a small flexible tube that is more comfortable than other scopes.

Reasons for Test

The test is done to look for causes of:

  • Swallowing problems
  • Hoarseness that has no clear cause and does not go away
  • Noises from breathing that can’t be explained
  • Symptoms such as acid reflux

A flexible laryngoscopy may also be done as part of treatment. For example, a scope may be used:

  • To see if throat is healing after surgery
  • To check size and position of breathing tube called tracheostomy
  • To look for abnormal change in tissue or tumors

Possible Complications 

Problems are rare with this test. Possible problems may include:

  • Bleeding in the nose—usually light
  • Reaction to anesthesia medicine
  • Swelling of voice box
  • Infection
  • Hoarseness

What to Expect

Prior to Test

Other tests or treatments may be tried first. Most tests will not need preparation.

Let your doctor know about any medicine or supplements you are taking.

You may be asked to avoid food and water for 8 hours before the test. You may also be asked to take a decongestant. It will decrease swelling and make it easier to move the scope.

Anesthesia

Medicine can be sprayed into the nose or throat. It will numb the area to make the test feel more comfortable.

Description of Test

The test can be done in a doctor’s office. You will be seated. Medicine may be sprayed into the nose and throat. The doctor will insert a small tube into the nose or mouth. It will be passed back into the throat. The scope may have a camera that sends images to a screen in the room. Some may just have an eyepiece that the doctor looks through. The doctor will move the scope to examine different areas.

The scope will be gently removed once the test is done.

After Test

The doctor may review the images with you right after the test.

You can leave after the test is done. You will be able to return to normal activities.

How Long Will It Take?

The scope may take 5 to 45 minutes depending on what the doctor sees.

Will It Hurt?

The scope can be a little uncomfortable. The test is not painful for most.

Results

Your doctor may have immediate results for you. The images may need to be further assessed before results are clear.

Call Your Doctor

After the test, call your doctor if you have:

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

RESOURCES

American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery  https://www.entnet.org 

Voice Foundation  https://voicefoundation.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Speech and Hearing BC  https://speechandhearingbc.ca 

Health Canada  https://www.canada.ca 

References

Cates D, Randall D. Evidence-Based Practice. Evidence-Based Clinical Practice in Otolaryngology, 2018; pp 125.

Direct Flexible Laryngoscopy. UPMC website. Available at: https://www.chp.edu/our-services/ent/patient-procedures/direct-flexible-laryngoscopy. Accessed June 4, 2020.

Laryngitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/condition/laryngitis/  . Updated April 24, 2019. Accessed June 4, 2020.

Laryngoscopy. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/laryngoscopy.html. Accessed June 4, 2020.

Stridor in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/stridor-in-children-approach-to-the-patient/  . Updated April 24, 2019. Accessed June 4, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
  • Review Date: 08/2020
  • Update Date: 10/09/2020