How It Is Done
Indirect laryngoscopy and direct flexible laryngoscopy are generally done in a doctor's office. You may be awake for the test.
You will sit straight up in a chair and stick out your tongue as far as you can. The doctor will hold your tongue down with some gauze. This lets the doctor see your throat more clearly. If you gag easily, the doctor may spray a numbing medicine (local anesthetic) into your throat to help with the gaggy feeling.
The doctor will hold a small mirror at the back of your throat and shine a light into your mouth. He or she will wear a head mirror to reflect the light to the back of your throat. Or your doctor may wear headgear with a bright light hooked to it. He or she may ask you to make a high-pitched "e-e-e-e" sound or a low-pitched "a-a-a-a" sound. Making these noises helps the doctor see your vocal cords.
If a local (topical) anesthetic is used during the examination, the numbing effect will last about 30 minutes. You can eat or drink when your throat is no longer numb.
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 test. 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 this test, remove all your jewelry, dentures, and eyeglasses. You will empty your bladder before the test. 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.
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 child is having this procedure, the same is also true. If your child has a sore throat and is age 4 or older, you can give him or her throat lozenges. A child age 8 or older can gargle with warm salt water.
How long the test takes
How long a laryngoscopy takes is similar for the three types:
- An indirect test takes 5 to 10 minutes.
- A direct flexible test takes about 5 minutes.
- A direct rigid test takes 15 to 30 minutes.