What is an Otolaryngologist-Head & Neck Surgeon?

This brochure is a copy of an American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Public Service Brochure.

Why Such A Long Name?
An otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon is a Medical Doctor who specializes in disorders of the head and neck, especially those related to the ear, nose and throat. Although it is hard for many to believe, otolaryngology is abbreviated from a still longer name: otorhinolaryngology. The latter derives from the Greek base words: oto - ear, rhino - nose, and laryn - throat.

In the past 50 years, otolaryngology has expanded from "ears, noses and throats" to a regional specialty of the head and neck. Even more recently, some otolaryngology-head and neck physicians subspecialize in otology, rhinology, laryngology, plastic surgery of the face and neck, tumor surgery, allergy, and broncho-esophagology.

What Training Is Required?
An otolaryngologist is ready to start practicing after 13 or more years of college and post-graduate training. To receive certification from the American Board of Otolaryngology, a young man or woman must first complete college, usually four years in medical school, and at least five years of specialty training.

Next, the physician must pass the American Board of Otolaryngology examination to receive certification. Some then pursue a one or two year fellowship for more training in a subspecialty area.

The well trained otolaryngologist has a thorough knowledge of the anatomy, physiology, neurology, biochemistry, bacteriology, pharmacology and pathology of all the organs and physical structures in the head and neck region. In addition to providing medical care in the office, an otolaryngologist - head and neck surgeon is also competent in many types of surgery.

What Do These Specialists Do?
They perform a great variety of surgical procedures in the daily treatment of the ear, nose, sinuses, pharynx, larynx, oral cavity, neck, thyroid, salivary glands, bronchial tubes and esophagus, as well as cosmetic surgery of the face and neck.

Those specially trained in ear work are well equipped to restore hearing through modern microsurgery. They may perform stapedectomy operations (on the smallest bone in the body) or other operations used to correct deafness such as surgically inserting a cochlear implant (a small electrode placed within the inner ear to help the severely hard of hearing). Modern surgical techniques used by these specialists can also cure disease and infection and repair deformities present in the ear since birth.

With their extensive knowledge of the head and neck, many otolaryngologists are proficient in facial plastic surgery. This is important for reconstructing the nose, ears, jaw and facial area to restore function and appearance. Grafts, flaps and plastic material are used by otolaryngologists to solve many surgical problems. Techniques used for cosmetic facial plastic surgery include face and brow lifts, improving the shape and size of the nose or the ear, chin augmentation, wrinkle removal, scar camouflaging and hair transplantation.

Otolaryngologists' training includes planning and carrying out the surgery and treatment of benign as well as cancerous tumors of the head and neck, the reconstructive techniques necessary to restore function and form in these patients, and the performance of skull base surgery.

The care of patients with allergic disorders of the upper respiratory system has become recognized as another important aspect of otolaryngology. Using modern techniques such as RAST (radio-allergosorbent-test) and skin endpoint titration, many otolaryngologists have expertise in alleviating chronic allergic symptoms. Using modern instruments such as the endoscope, many otolaryngologists perform intricate sinus surgery to help alleviate blockage and infections.

Virtually all ear, nose and throat specialists routinely handle cases such as adenoidectomies, tonsillectomies, nosebleeds, infected mastoids and sinus disease. Most otolaryngologists have up to date audiologic equipment to test hearing and diagnose the cause of hearing loss. Others have a special interest in neurotology (the study of the nerves within the ear) and problems of balance such as dizziness.

The physician's qualifications and inclinations as well as community needs will influence the breadth and limits of an individual's practice. The broad and challenging scope of the specialty allows a choice of direction, in addition to providing the best in patient care.

©1994. American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Inc. This leaflet is published as a public service. The material may be freely used for noncommercial purposes so long as attributation is given to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Inc. One Prince Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-3357

University of South Florida
Department of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery
12901 Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, MDC 73 | Tampa, FL 33612 | (813) 974-4683
email : [email protected]