Diagnosing Throat, Voice and Swallowing Disorders
The first step in resolving your throat problem is figuring out what’s going on. Because our physicians specialize exclusively in the care of the throat, they’re extraordinarily knowledgeable about injuries and disease conditions that may affect the throat. They also have access to the full range of the latest diagnostic devices and techniques.
Comprehensive Throat, Swallowing Assessment
When you contact the Ear, Nose and Throat Program (Otolaryngology) at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin with a throat, swallowing or communication concern, we’ll listen carefully. Then we’ll help you schedule an appointment with a health professional who can address your particular needs.
Our physicians conduct careful physical exams and review past medical records and imaging studies. They ask about your symptoms – and about how your symptoms affect your life. They may also order some diagnostic tests to gather more information, and will consult with their colleagues to explore your condition from all angles.
Our Ear, Nose and Throat Program (Otolaryngology) is a truly multi-disciplinary program, and our experts regularly consult with colleagues to arrive at conclusive diagnoses and determine optimal treatment plans.
Some tests that are commonly used to assess the throat include:
Flexible laryngoscopy. A laryngoscope is a thin, flexible lighted scope that can be inserted into the throat to look at the larynx (voice box). Laryngoscopy is used check for masses, vocal cord irregularities, pooling of secretions and to see if the vocal cords are working normally.
Videostroboscopy. A rigid or flexible high definition laryngoscope is connected to a strobe light and recording equipment to allow for evaluation of laryngeal structure and function in minute detail.
Laryngeal Electromyography (laryngeal EMG). A laryngeal EMG assesses the muscle activity of the throat and vocal cords. Small electrodes are placed on either side of the voice box to measure the electrical activity of the vocal cords. The test takes about 20 minutes.
Videofluoroscopic swallow study (VFSS). A videofluoroscopic swallow study is a swallowing test that uses X-Rays to monitor the swallowing process as you eat and drink food that contains barium. A series of X-Rays then show the progress of the substance through the throat, allowing the doctor to identify any problems that may affect swallowing.
Esophagogram. Also called a barium swallow, an esophagogram is another type of X-ray study that allows doctors to see the structure and function of the esophagus during swallowing. In a barium swallow, patients drink a small amount of barium prior to the test. These are often done along with a videofluoroscopic swallow study.
Throat biopsies. If doctors see a suspicious mass or unusual-looking bit of tissue in the throat, they may remove a small sample – a throat biopsy – and send it to the lab for analysis.