What is Otorhinolaryngology?

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Otorhinolaryngology, also known as otolaryngology, is a medical field that specializes in the treatment of conditions related to the ears, nose, and throat. It is also known as otolaryngology-head and neck surgery since practitioners are trained in both medical and surgical procedures. Medical professionals who specialize in this field are commonly referred to as ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors. Unlike other medical practitioners, otolaryngologists are qualified to perform a range of surgeries on the intricate and intricate tissues of the head and neck. (1)

Female ent doctor with otoscope, patient in chair

Overview and Definition

Otorhinolaryngology is a specialized branch of medicine that deals with the management of conditions affecting the head and neck, both medically and surgically. Practitioners who specialize in this field go by different names such as otorhinolaryngologists, otolaryngologists, head and neck surgeons, or ENT surgeons or physicians. Patients with conditions affecting the ear, nose, throat, base of the skull, head, and neck, seek treatment from these experts. These conditions can involve functional issues that affect the senses and basic activities such as eating, drinking, speaking, breathing, swallowing, and hearing.

Moreover, otorhinolaryngology involves the surgical management of both benign and cancerous tumors and the reconstruction of the head and neck. This includes plastic surgery on the face and neck. Otorhinolaryngologists are also specialized in treating various diseases such as infections, injuries, deformities, and genetic disorders that affect the head and neck area. In summary, otorhinolaryngology is an extensive medical specialty that encompasses both surgical and medical management of conditions related to the head and neck. (2)

Education and Training

Otorhinolaryngologists are medical doctors who have completed medical school and around 5-7 years of surgical training in ORL-H&N, which stands for ear, nose, and throat (otorhinolaryngology) and head and neck surgery (ORL-H&N). In the United States, surgical residency training usually lasts for five years, including three to six months of general surgical training and four and a half years in specialist surgery for ORL-H&N. In Canada and the United States, practitioners must undergo five-year residency training after medical school.

After completing their residency training, some otolaryngologist-head & neck surgeons may choose to undertake an advanced sub-specialty fellowship. This additional training typically lasts for one to two years and includes sub-specialties such as head and neck surgical oncology, facial plastic surgery, rhinology and sinus surgery, neuro-otology, pediatric otolaryngology, and laryngology. 

Obtaining a residency position in otorhinolaryngology following medical school is highly competitive in both the United States and Canada.

In the United Kingdom, entrance to otorhinolaryngology higher surgical training is also highly competitive and involves a rigorous national selection process. The training program consists of six years of higher surgical training, after which trainees frequently undertake fellowships in a sub-specialty before becoming a consultant.

Overall, the education and training process for becoming an otorhinolaryngologist requires around 12-14 years of post-secondary school education and training. (3)

Practicing as an Otorhinolaryngologists

Man at otorhinolaryngologist appointment in the hospital

Otorhinolaryngologists, also known as otolaryngologists or ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctors, are medical specialists who diagnose and treat disorders of the head and neck, particularly those affecting the ears, nose, and throat. They are trained to manage both medical and surgical conditions, and they work with both children and adults.

Some of the common conditions that otorhinolaryngologists treat include hearing loss, sinusitis, allergies, voice disorders, tonsillitis, snoring and sleep apnea, vertigo, and cancers of the head and neck. They also manage facial trauma and perform reconstructive and cosmetic procedures on the head and neck.

Otorhinolaryngologists are skilled in performing a wide range of surgical procedures, including tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, septoplasty, rhinoplasty, thyroidectomy, parathyroidectomy, cochlear implantation, and microvascular reconstruction. They also use various diagnostic tools and tests, such as endoscopy, imaging studies, and hearing tests, to evaluate and diagnose the conditions affecting the head and neck. (4)

Procedures Performed

Otorhinolaryngology (ORL) procedures encompass a wide range of surgical interventions to treat conditions of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck. These procedures can range from simple outpatient procedures to complex surgeries. Below are some of the more common ORL procedures:

Ear Procedures

When it comes to ear procedures, ORL specialists may perform a variety of different procedures to treat conditions affecting the ears. Some common ear procedures performed by ORL specialists include

  • Ear tubes (tympanostomy)
  • Myringoplasty
  • Tympanoplasty
  • Tympanoplasty with Ossicular Reconstruction
  • Tympanomastoidectomy
  • Tympanomastoidectomy with Ossicular Reconstruction
  • Stapedectomy

Larynx Procedures

Larynx procedures refer to medical interventions that are performed to diagnose or treat conditions related to the larynx, which is also known as the voice box. The larynx is responsible for producing sound and protecting the airway during swallowing.

  • Laryngoscopy with biopsy
  • Microlaryngoscopy with biopsy
  • Esophagoscopy
  • Laryngoplasty

Nasal / Sinus Procedures

Nasal and sinus procedures are medical interventions that are performed to diagnose or treat conditions related to the nasal cavity and sinuses. These procedures are typically performed by an Otorhinolaryngology (ORL) specialist or a sinus surgeon.

  • Septoplasty
  • Septoplasty with turbinate reduction
  • Nasal valve reconstruction
  • Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery
  • Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (Complex)
  • Nasal fracture reduction (closed)
  • Nasal fracture reduction (open)
  • Rhinoplasty

Neck Procedures

Neck procedures are medical interventions that are performed to diagnose or treat conditions related to the neck. These procedures may be performed by an Otorhinolaryngology (ORL) specialist or a surgeon who specializes in neck surgeries.

  • Biopsy neck mass ( superficial)
  • Biopsy neck mass (deep)
  • Parotidectomy
  • Submandibular gland removal

Pediatric Procedures

Pediatric procedures are medical interventions that are specifically designed for children. These procedures may be performed by a variety of healthcare providers, including pediatricians, pediatric surgeons, and Otorhinolaryngology (ORL) specialists.

  • Ear tubes (tympanostomy, BMT)
  • Tonsillectomy
  • Tonsillectomy with adenoidectomy (T&A)
  • Adenoidectomy
  • Ear tubes with adenoidectomy
  • Ear tubes with T&A

Thyroid / Parathyroid

The thyroid and parathyroid are two glands located in the neck that is involved in the regulation of different metabolic processes in the body. The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the metabolism and energy levels in the body while the parathyroid gland regulates calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood.

  • Parathyroidectomy
  • Thyroidectomy (partial)
  • Thyroidectomy (total)
  • Thyroidectomy with lymph node excision(5)

Otorhinolaryngology Expertises

Otorhinolaryngology Blog Posts

  • 1-https://www.entcolumbia.org/about-us/what-otolaryngology