Otolaryngologists are physicians trained in the medical and surgical management and treatment of patients with diseases of the head and neck. Otolaryngologists are also often referred to as ENT (ear, nose and throat) physicians. Their special skills include diagnosing and managing diseases of the sinuses, larynx, oral cavity, and upper pharynx, as well as structures of the neck and face. Most ENT physicians treat adults and children.

The thyroid gland is found in the neck below the Adam’s apple. The gland produces a hormone called thyroid hormone that plays a role in the metabolism of the body. Thyroid hormone influences essentially every organ, every tissue and every cell in the body. It is a butterfly-shaped gland whose two lobes lie on either side of the upper trachea (windpipe) just below the larynx (voice box).

Removal of both lobes of the thyroid is a total thyroidectomy. Removal of one lobe is called a hemi-thyroidectomy. The procedure is done under general anesthesia through a transverse incision below the collar line. This incision heals well with minimal scarring. A hemi-thyroidectomy (removal of one lobe of the gland) takes about 2 hours while a total thyroidectomy is a 3-4 hour procedure. The incision is usually closed with nylon sutures that are removed 5-7 days after surgery. The procedure is done for the following reasons:

  • Suspicion or the presence of thyroid cancer
  • Abnormal findings in a needle biopsy
  • Multiple nodules
  • Pressure on the trachea or esophagus
  • Graves disease/Thyrotoxicosis

While the most common treatment for an ear infection is proper medication, sometimes medication is not enough. Persistent infections may require a means to drain fluid and pressure from behind the eardrum. This is done by placing tubes in the ear. Ear tubes are tiny cylinders placed through the eardrum (tympanic membrane) to allow air in the middle ear. They may also be called tympanostomy tubes, myringotomy tubes, ventilation tubes, or PE (pressure equalization) tubes. The tubes are plastic or metal similar in shape to an empty spool of thread. There are two types of ear tubes: short-term and long-term. Short-term tubes are smaller and generally stay in place six months to a year before falling out on their own. Long-term tubes are larger and have flanges that secure them in place for a longer period of time. Long-term tubes may fall out on their own, but surgical removal is often necessary. While children are the most common patients for ear tubes some older patients may also need them. The benefits of ear tubes include: reducing the risk of future ear infections, restoring hearing loss caused by middle ear fluid, and improving speech and balance issues.

Sinuses are air-filled spaces within the bones around your nose. The sinuses are divided into four subgroups: maxillary sinuses (under the eyes), frontal sinuses (hard part of the forehead), the ethmoid sinuses (between the nose and eyes) and the sphenoid sinuses (under the pituitary gland). The role of the sinuses is very much debated, but a number of functions have been proposed:

  • Decreasing the relative weight of the skull.
  • Increasing of the voice.
  • Creating a buffer against blows to the facial area.
  • Insulating and protecting sensitive structures, like dental roots, in the nasal cavity.
  • Humidifying and heating of inhaled air in this region since air turnover is slow.

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses that may or may not be due to infection. Inflammation can occur in any of the sinuses. A feeling of pain, pressure or headache is felt, with the location of the pain dependent on which sinuses are inflamed. Sinusitis can be acute, subacute, or chronic. Acute sinusitis usually can be helped with antibiotics. Nasal irrigation or flushing is another treatment that may help. If chronic sinusitis does not go away, nasal surgery is another possible option.

 

A tonsillectomy is surgical procedure in which the tonsils are removed. Sometimes the adenoids are removed as well. A tonsillectomy is performed if a patient has chronic tonsillitis, has sleep apnea, has difficulty eating or swallowing or has multiple bouts of peritonsillar abscess. Tonsillectomies are usually performed on children but can be performed on adults as well.

The adenoids are a mass of lymphoid tissue in the back of the nose, where the nose bends into the mouth. Adenoids are part of the immune system – they trap infectious viruses and bacteria, and produce antibodies. The adenoids can become infected and enlarged. Enlarged adenoids can obstruct airflow so that breathing through the nose becomes more difficult. Additional symptoms include breathing through the mouth instead of the nose most of the time, noisy breathing during the day, ear infections, snoring at night, breathing that stops for a few seconds at night during snoring (sleep apnea), hearing loss due to middle ear fluid, unusual facial qualities (for example, an extremely elongated face with a high palatal arch and widened nose), speech impediment or delayed speech development. An adenoidectomy or removal of the adenoids is usually the chosen form of treatment.