Laryngoscopy is an exam of the voice box and vocal cords.
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This procedure is done to check for and diagnose problems inside the throat. It is most often done to:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Smoking may raise the risk of problems.
The care team may meet with you to talk about:
The doctor may give:
There are two methods to do this procedure. Images may be taken during either type.
You will sit in a chair. A headrest will push your head and jaw forward. Your tongue will be covered with gauze and held by the doctor. You will be asked to breathe through your mouth as if you were panting. A warm mirror will be held to the back of the throat. The doctor will ask you to make a certain sound. The larynx will be viewed. Other needed procedures may be done at this time.
The method may be done after the indirect method. It allows the doctor to get a better view. It may also be used if your gag reflex did not allow for an indirect exam. A special scope will be placed through your nose or mouth, then passed into your throat. The larynx will be checked through an eyepiece on the scope or a camera. Other needed procedures may be done at this time.
The indirect method only takes a few minutes. The direct method takes about 5 to 45 minutes, depending on the problem.
A sore throat is common in the first few days. Medicine and home care help.
Right after the procedure, the staff may give you pain medicine.
It will take about a week to recover. Coughing and throat clearing may need to be avoided during this time.
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
American Cancer Society
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
Airway management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/airway-management. Accessed December 15, 2020.
Brindley PG, Beed M, et al. Airway management outside the operating room: how to better prepare. Can J Anaesth. 2017 May;64(5):530-539.
Laryngoscopy. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/laryngoscopy.html. Accessed December 15, 2020.
Laryngoscopy and biopsy. NetDoctor website. Available at: https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/procedures/surgical/a4655/laryngoscopy-and-biopsy. Accessed December 15, 2020..
Last reviewed September 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 4/21/2021