What is Otolaryngology Surgery?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 02 April 2020
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Otolaryngology surgery is surgery performed on the head or neck for cosmetic or corrective reasons. This surgery is performed by a surgical specialist known as an otolaryngologist. Although the brain is in the head, which might lead someone to assume that it would be included in this surgical specialty, surgery on the brain is not part of otolaryngology. The eyes are also not part of this specialty. For surgeons, otolaryngology is one of the most competitive specialties to enter, and it can be highly lucrative for certain types of specialists.

This type of surgery can include anything from a face lift to snoring surgery. Doctors train for five years in an otolaryngology residency to learn to perform otolaryngology surgery, and training in a subspecialty can least up to two more years. At the end of training, a surgeon can perform surgeries on the nose, throat, ears, and structures of the face. Surgeons who pursue board certification in a specialty can generally command higher salaries.

Cosmetic otolaryngology is covered primarily by facial plastics. Some examples of cosmetic otolaryngology surgery are: rhinoplasties, cheek implants, chin implants, and cleft lip and palate surgery. Specialists in facial plastics can also perform reconstructive surgery to repair the face after physical trauma or damage caused by diseases such as cancer. Some specialists in facial plastics focus on the correction of facial birth defects like port wine stains, skull deformities, and cleft lips.


Otolaryngology surgery can also include corrective measures such as the removal of growths and surgeries to address specific issues, like voice disorders, dental problems, deviated septums, snoring, and hearing disorders which can benefit from surgery. Also known as head and neck surgery or ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgery, otolaryngology surgery can be quite diverse.

This type of surgery may be performed under general anesthesia, sedation, or local anesthesia, depending on the nature of the procedure. Because the face is such a visible part of the body, special precautions are taken to avoid creating cosmetic damage during the course of the surgery. Otolaryngologists are also concerned about damaging the nerves of the face, as the cranial nerves are numerous, and damage to one of them could cause disfigurement or physical difficulty for a patient.

Patients are usually recommended for otolaryngology surgery by their primary care providers, who determine that a patient has a condition which could benefit from the attention of an otolaryngologist. It is also possible to make an appointment with a surgeon without a referral, although it helps to bring along medical records and to have a clear reason for seeking an appointment with an otolaryngologist.


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