Laryngoscopy

Direct fiber-optic (flexible or rigid) laryngoscopy

Direct laryngoscopy lets your doctor see deeper into your throat. The scope is either flexible or rigid. Flexible scopes show the throat better and are more comfortable for you. Rigid scopes are often used in surgery.

Why It Is Done

Direct laryngoscopy helps a doctor:

  • Find the cause of voice problems, such as a breathy voice, hoarse voice, weak voice, or no voice.
  • Find the cause of throat and ear pain.
  • Find the cause for difficulty in swallowing, a feeling of a lump in the throat, or mucus with blood in it.
  • Check injuries to the throat, narrowing of the throat (strictures), or blockages in the airway.

Direct rigid laryngoscopy may be used as a surgical procedure to remove foreign objects in the throat, collect tissue samples (biopsy), remove polyps from the vocal cords, or perform laser treatment. Direct rigid laryngoscopy may also be used to help find cancer of the voice box (larynx).

Direct rigid laryngoscopy

Before a rigid laryngoscopy, tell your doctor if you:

  • Are allergic to any medicines, including anesthetics.
  • Are taking any medicines.
  • Have bleeding problems or take blood-thinning medicine, such as warfarin (Coumadin).
  • Have heart problems.
  • Are or might be pregnant.
  • Have had surgery or radiation treatments to your mouth or throat.

Rigid laryngoscopy is done with a general anesthetic. Do not eat or drink for 8 hours before the procedure. If you have this test in your doctor's office or at a surgery center, arrange to have someone drive you home after the procedure.

You will also be asked to sign a consent form. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form.

Direct flexible laryngoscopy

The doctor will use a thin, flexible scope to look at your throat. You may get a medicine to dry up the secretions in your nose and throat. This lets your doctor see more clearly. A topical anesthetic may be sprayed on your throat to numb it.

The scope is put in your nose and then gently moved down into your throat. As the scope is passed down your throat, your doctor may spray more medicine to keep your throat numb during the examination. The doctor may also swab or spray a medicine inside your nose that opens your nasal passages to give a better view of your airway.

Direct rigid laryngoscopy

Before you have a rigid laryngoscopy, remove all your jewelry, dentures, and eyeglasses. You will empty your bladder before the examination. You will be given a cloth or paper gown to wear.

Direct rigid laryngoscopy is done in a surgery room. You will go to sleep (general anesthetic) and not feel the scope in your throat.

You will lie on your back during this procedure. After you are asleep, the rigid laryngoscope is put in your mouth and down your throat. Your doctor will be able to see your voice box (larynx) and vocal cords.

The rigid laryngoscope may also be used to remove foreign objects in the throat, collect tissue samples (biopsy), remove polyps from the vocal cords, or perform laser treatment.

The examination takes 15 to 30 minutes. You may get an ice pack to use on your throat to prevent swelling. After the procedure, you will be watched by a nurse for a few hours until you are fully awake and able to swallow.

  • Do not eat or drink anything for about 2 hours after a laryngoscopy or until you are able to swallow without choking. You can then start with sips of water. When you feel ready, you can eat a normal diet.
  • Do not clear your throat or cough hard for several hours after the laryngoscopy.
  • If your vocal cords were affected during the laryngoscopy, rest your voice completely for 3 days.
  • If you speak, do so in your normal tone of voice and do not talk for very long. Whispering or shouting can strain your vocal cords as they are trying to heal.
  • You may sound hoarse for about 3 weeks after the laryngoscopy if tissue was removed.
  • If nodules or other lesions were removed from your vocal cords, you may have to follow total voice rest (no talking, whispering, or making any other voice sounds) for up to 2 weeks.


Additional information