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What Is a Mediastinoscope?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 10 August 2014
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A mediastinoscope is a piece of equipment that is specifically designed for looking at the chest cavity between the lungs. The scope assembly typically contains both a camera and a light source, and sometimes it also contains parts for removing or biopsying tissue. Medical tests where a mediastinoscope may be used include the assessment of lung cancer or identification of infection.

Endoscopy is an important subsection of medical diagnostics. This technique involves making either no incision or a small incision, and inserting a long, thin, tube into the body. The tube is flexible enough for the surgeon to manuever it through, or past, biological obstacles, to get at the region of the body under study. At the end of the tube is a tiny camera, which, along with a light source, shows the surgeon the details of what is going on inside the body without the patient having to undergo open surgery. A mediastinoscope is an endoscope that has been specialized to the region between the lungs.

The lungs are located at the top of the chest, below the ribs and the bone of the breastbone. Between the lungs is a space called the mediastinum. Inside this space sit the heart, some lymph nodes and the tubes to take air and food into the body. Changes in this area can occur when a person suffers from diseases like cancer, and so a mediastinoscope can be used to look inside the body to help a doctor diagnose an issue.

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Lung cancer is the most common reason to receive a mediastinoscopy, and the procedure can help to identify how severe a case of cancer is. This is because the cancer cells in the lung can spread to the lymph nodes in the mediastinum over time. Signs of cancerous tissue in the nodes include abnormally dark or light patches of cells, or unusual masses in the mediastinum. An infection or a chronic condition like sarcoidosis can also be identified using this technique, as well as problems with the thymus gland in the mediastinum.

As well as helping a doctor to diagnose the presence of abnormal cells, the mediastinoscope can also be used to remove abnormal tissue or sample some for further testing. To do this, the basic body of a simple mediastinoscope can also contain tools like claws or forceps, which the surgeon can maneuver to take away tissue. He or she performs the procedure by looking at the television image of the inside of the body transmitted by the mediastinoscope camera.

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