The majority of ENT problems present in most of the patients is pretty minor in nature, and tends to cause only discomfort to the patient, but have no other negative effect on the body or the life of the person. However, there are some ENT problems which are more serious in nature and can become life threatening. To be able to save the life of the patient, early detection of these problems and immediate treatment of the same is crucial. It is precisely for this reason that many diagnostic techniques have been developed and are being used by the ENT specialist to identify these problems as early as possible and give the patients the possible treatment for the same.
Some of the most common and popular diagnostic examinations for ear, nose and throat being used these days by ENT doctors all over the world are as follows:
Under this examination, face, ears, throat, neck and nose are carefully examined by the doctor. This is the first step, and every patient visiting an ENT specialist undergoes this examination. In fact, the basic fee that is payable to the ENT doctor, includes the charges for this examination. Under this examination, screening for hearing loss is done, along with a pressure testing for checking the fluid in the eardrums. Nasal examinations are done with the help of a headlight or a mirror. Nasal septum and turbinate are examined closely with the help of a handheld speculum. This nasal examination is done twice, once before spraying the decongestant nose spray, and once after spraying of the same. Examination of the voice box and the back of the nose is the most unique part of this ENT examination. This examination is done with the help of hand held mirrors in the mouth. Neck examination includes checking of the lymph nodes, salivary glands, thyroid glands. The routine examination also includes examination of the cardiopulmonary system and the overall health of the patient. The entire procedure is painless.
If a patient complains of hearing problems like loss of hearing, ringing in the ears and balancing disorders, this test would be performed on them. The otoacoutic emissions test requires a quiet room and gets performed within 5 seconds. It is used to test normal hearing in patients. This test is normally performed on newborn babies in their nurseries. For better results, complete cooperation from the patient is a must. The quietest sounds that a patient is able to listen in the room, at varying frequencies are recorded by the audiologist and an audiogram is prepared for each ear. Another procedure or test conducted in this regard is Tympanometry, which is a quick and painless way of measuring the fluid behind the eardrums in children and the barometric pressures in the middle ears.
Patients with nasal complaints, sinus and allergies are subjected to this test. After spraying nasal spray and giving the patient anesthesia, a small telescope in inserted in the nostrils to get a magnified view of the same. This helps in identifying problems like swelling, enlarged turbinate, polyps in the nasal, sinus drainage and septal deformities. Culture of abnormal secretions and findings is then done. For throat complaints and swallowing problems, a more flexible scope can be used to examine the back of the throat and the voice box. To study the esophagus, long endoscope may be used and the procedure is known as trans-nasal endoscopy.
If the medical management of problems like allergies, nasal polyps and asthma are not giving relief to the patient, advanced allergy testings are required. For these tests, superficial skin pricks and injections under the skin are done. These pricks and injections are giving with common antigens present in the air and food. This helps in checking the sensitivity of a patient towards the natural environment and accordingly the dose for the allergies is modified.
CT scans are used to check the sinuses and middle ears of the patients. The results for the same are available within a matter of a few minutes and the physicians can interpret the results immediately. The new scanners use almost 80 to 90% less radiation and are, therefore, not harmful for the health of the patients.
Cultures, Biopsies, and Blood Work
Samples from the blood, excretions, and fluids in the body are sent to a laboratory for extensive testing. The results can take up to a week’s time to come back, but do help in understanding the exact problem of the patient.
Before any of the above diagnostic tests or examinations are performed on the patient, the doctor need to first collect the complete history of the patient. The past illnesses and other details about the patient can have a major effect not just on the treatment, but also on these tests and their results. Hence, some of the important information that the doctors need to collect from the patients include:
- Symptoms or problems noticed and faced by the patient.
- Past history of any ear, nose or throat problems.
- Any previous treatment taken for ENT.
- Any medication the patient may be taking currently for any other problem or disease.
- Previous injuries, specifically head injuries or surgeries.
- Family history of the patient.
- Allergies to any food, medicine, etc.
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