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The larynx is the medical term for your upper windpipe where your voicebox and vocal cords are located. ‘Laryngoscopy’ describes the process of examining the larynx, although devices used to examine can also perform some types of surgery at the same time as the examination.

Symptoms that may require a laryngoscopy include:

  • voice problems – hoarseness or breathiness when speaking, or a weak voice or none at all
  • pain in the throat (or in the ear)
  • a lump in the throat or difficulty swallowing
  • presence of mucus or blood in the mouth/saliva
  • difficulty breathing
  • injury to the throat

All of the above (except injury to the throat) may be caused by benign or, very occasionally, cancerous lesions in the larynx, the most common of which are vocal cord polyps, nodules or cysts, or papillomas, and a laryngoscopy will allow diagnosis of these and (if necessary) removal via laser surgery while the laryngoscopy is being performed.

A conventional laryngoscopy can be performed as either a ‘direct’ laryngoscopy’ or an ‘indirect’ laryngoscopy.

An ‘indirect’ laryngoscopy is where a mirror is positioned at the back of the throat and the doctor is able to view the larynx with a bright light, often worn on the doctor’s head. You are sitting in a chair during the examination, which lasts for 5-10 minutes. Some local anaesthetic may be required to prevent the gagging reflex.

A ‘direct’ laryngoscopy can performed either using a flexible device (an endoscope) to look inside your larynx, or using a rigid device. Rigid laryngoscopies are performed in surgery under general anaesthetic. A flexible laryngoscopy can be carried out either under a local anaesthetic or in hospital under a general anaesthetic.

Microlaryngoscopy and microlaryngeal surgery (also referred to as laryngeal microsurgery)

The microlaryngoscope has an inbuilt microscope (hence ‘micro’) and light which enables the surgeon to inspect the larynx and vocal cords at very high magnification and use a powerful surgical laser where surgery is needed.

The hospital procedure generally takes no longer than 90 minutes and the patient is able to return home the same day.

After surgery Dr Chang will let you know what you need to do to allow your voice to recover. It is a good idea to rest your voice and try not to speak loudly, whisper or strain your voice while you are recovering.

It is also common to have a slightly sore throat and some hoarseness after laryngeal surgery, especially if any tissue has been removed. Generally you can return to work within a week of surgery.