Skip to main content
Book Appointment

«  View All Posts

Laryngoscopy: Types, Procedure, Uses, and Indications

September 17th, 2019 | 3 min. read

By Michael P Underbrink, MD

laryngoscopy houston ent


It's essential you keep a healthy larynx since it contains your vocal cords (folds). Air passes through your larynx and over your vocal cords, causing them to vibrate which produces sound. It helps you breathe, talk and swallow. It's positioned at the top of your trachea or windpipe at the back of the throat. It contains your vocal cords that vibrate, making sounds as you speak.

Your doctor will use a laryngoscope (a small hand tool) to look into your larynx as well as other surrounding parts of your throat or if they need to insert a tube into your trachea to help you breathe.

Laryngoscopy Definition

Laryngoscopy definition: Laryngoscopy is a visual exam using a throat scope to view below the back of the throat where your larynx that contains your vocal cords is. It's an efficient procedure to help the doctor discover the cause of:

  • Pain in your ear or throat

  • Blockages in your airway

  • Narrowing of your throat (stenosis or strictures)

  • Difficulty in swallowing


Different Types of Laryngoscopy 

There are several types of laryngoscopy flexible laryngoscopy procedure, including:

1. Indirect Laryngoscopy

Indirect laryngoscopy is the easiest form. The doctor uses a light and small mirror to view into your throat. The mirror is attached on a long handle like the type dentists often use, and they place it against the roof of your mouth. They then shine the light into your mouth to view the image in the mirror. The procedure is usually done in the doctor's office.

They'll have you sit in a chair while they perform the exam. The doctor may spray something in your throat to numb it. However, the process could make you gag.

2. Direct Fiber-Optic Laryngoscopy

A lot of doctors do this type now. It's sometimes referred to as flexible laryngoscopy. Your doctor will use a small telescope which is at the end of a cable and goes in your nose and into your throat.

It's a quick procedure. You'll receive a numbing agent for your nose. In some cases, the doctor may use a decongestant to open your nasal passages. It's common to gag with this procedure too.

3. Direct Laryngoscopy

Direct laryngoscopy is the most involved type. The doctor will use a laryngoscope for pushing your tongue down and lifting up your epiglottis. Your epiglottis is the cartilage flap that covers your windpipe. When you breathe it opens and when you swallow, it closes.

The doctor can use this procedure to remove samples of tissue for testing or remove small growths. They can also use it to insert a tube into your trachea to help you breathe in surgery or during an emergency.

This procedure takes a bit longer than the others. They'll give you general anesthesia so you won't be awake during the procedure. 


Uses and Indications of Flexible Laryngoscopy 

The doctor might perform laryngoscopy to determine why your sore throat won't go away or for diagnosing an ongoing issue like hoarseness, coughing or bad breath.

Other uses of flexible laryngoscopy are for if:

  • You have something or the feeling of something stuck inside your throat

  • You have laryngitis, whether acute or chronic laryngitis

  • You have difficulty swallowing or breathing

  • You have an earache that doesn't go away

  • You have a chronic hoarseness

  • You're coughing up blood

  • The doctor has to examine something that could be an indication of something more serious like cancer

  • The doctor has to remove a growth

  • You have throat pain that doesn't go away

  • You have long-term (chronic) cough

  • You smoke and have a long-term respiratory problem

  • You have bad breath that doesn't go away

  • You have a mass in your neck or head area with signs of cancer

  • You have voice problems lasting for over three weeks, including weak voice, hoarseness, no voice or raspy voice

The doctor may perform a direct laryngoscopy to:

  • Remove a tissue sample in the throat to exam it more closely under a microscope

  • Remove something that's blocking your airway (i.e. a swallowed coin or marble)


What's Involved in a Laryngoscopy Procedure? 

The doctor may want to take imaging tests or X-rays before the laryngoscopy. If you require a direct laryngoscopy with general anesthesia, they’ll tell you not to drink or eat anything prior to going in. They may also have you stop taking any medications you’re currently on for possibly a week before your procedure.

The doctor may have you swallow a liquid referred to as barium while they take a series of X-rays of your esophagus and larynx. This liquid is harmless and passes through your body within a couple of days. 

There are different steps involved in a laryngoscopy procedure, which can vary depending on the type of laryngoscopy you are having. 

Indirect Laryngoscopy 

  1. The doctor gives you a numbing agent for the back of the throat.
  2. The doctor holds a small mirror at your throat in the back.
  3. They shine the light on the mirror to look into your throat area.

Fiberoptic Laryngoscopy

  1. The doctor numbs your nose with a numbing spray.
  2. They use a flexible, small telescope and pass it in your nose, into your throat.
  3. They examine your voice box.

Direct Laryngoscopy 

  1. The doctor gives you general anesthesia to put you asleep.
  2. They use a laryngoscope and place it in your throat in the back.
  3. The tube might be stiff or flexible.
  4. The doctor takes a look deep in your throat.
  5. They remove a sample tissue for biopsy or a foreign object.

You can gargle with salt water or suck on ice to ease your sore throat. OTC pain relievers or throat lozenges may help too. 


Contact Houston ENT & Allergy Services to Set Up your Laryngoscopy Appointment With a Voice and Swallowing Center Specialist

Houston ENT Clinic is one of the largest ENT groups nationwide with twelve locations around the Greater Houston metropolitan area. We provide comprehensive surgical and medical treatment to individuals with ear, nose or throat conditions with compassionate care. Our staff is friendly and welcoming and ready to help you with your healthcare needs.  Contact us today to set up your laryngoscopy appointment at our new voice and swallowing center. 


Request An Appointment with Houston ENT & Allergy Today!


Michael P Underbrink, MD