Upper airway biopsy

Definition

Upper airway biopsy is surgery in which a small piece of tissue is removed from the upper airway (nose, mouth, throat) for examination.

Alternative Names

Biopsy - upper airway

How the Test is Performed

The health care provider will spray a numbing medicine in your mouth and throat. A metal tube is inserted to hold your tongue out of the way.

Another numbing medicine is injected through the tube down the back of the throat. This may cause you to cough at first. When the area feels thick or swollen, it is numb.

The abnormal area is viewed, and a small piece of tissue is removed. It is sent to the laboratory for examination.

How to Prepare for the Test

Do not eat for 6 - 12 hours before the test. You must sign an informed consent form.

How the Test Will Feel

As the area is being numbed, you may feel like there is fluid running down the back of your throat. You may feel the need to cough or gag. And you may feel pressure or mild tugging.

When the numbness wears off, your throat may feel scratchy for several days. After the test, the cough reflex will return in 1 - 2 hours. Then you may eat and drink normally.

Why the Test is Performed

This test may be done if your doctor thinks there is a problem or defect. It may also be done as part of a bronchoscopy when defects are in the upper airway and the lung tissue.

Normal Results

The upper airway tissues are normal, with no abnormal growths.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Disorders or conditions that may be discovered include:

Risks

  • Bleeding (some bleeding is common, excessive bleeding is not)
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Sore throat

There is a risk of choking if you swallow water or food before the numbness wears off.

References

Yung RC, Boss EF. Tracheobronchial endoscopy. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2010:chap 75.


Review Date: 11/23/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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