An endoscopy of the vocal cords (also called a laryngoscopy) is a necessary procedure when you experience some discomfort in the voice. It can be done in a clinic and sometimes it is necessary to use local anaesthesia. The patient is not required to go without eating before the procedure, and an endoscopy is performed quickly and safely.
A vocal cord endoscopy is a way to visualise the structures in the larynx that generate sound and voice, and it is generally done in two ways. The first – called a rigid endoscopy - is performed by inserting a camera through the mouth to examine the cords as they move. The second way – called a flexible nasendoscopy or flexible laryngoscopy- is performed by inserting a camera, via a nostril, through the nose, which is then turned around to enter the larynx. The vocal cords are horizontal but when viewed from top to bottom, as in this type of endoscopy, they appear in a "v" shape. With a special machine called a video-stroboscope, it is possible to examine the vibration of the cords in slow motion; the cords usually vibrate between 200 and 500 times per second.
Usefulness of endoscopy
An endoscopy can be done for many types of voice problems. In general, any problem that generates a hoarse voice is sufficient reason to do an endoscopy. This means that it can be used for vocal nodules, polyps, benign or malignant tumours, or simply an inflammation from infections or chronic irritation, so any patient with a disorder of the voice, or simply a hoarse voice, could need a vocal cord endoscopy.
An endoscopy is usually performed under local anaesthesia applied as a spray on the back of the tongue.
Does not require special preparation or hospitalisation
Unlike an endoscopy to examine the stomach or the lungs, for example, a vocal cord endoscopy is quite simple and can be done in the doctor’s consulting room. The patient does not need any special preparation, and can eat normally before the procedure, which is performed while the patient is sitting down. It is a fairly simple, comfortable and fast procedure completed in five minutes or less.
If you are experiencing problems with your voice, or are worried about vocal nodules, consult your GP or a specialist.
To read more about endoscopies, click here.