Decoding medical terms: otorhinolaryngology

Pronunciation: ow·tuh·rai·now·la·ruhng·go·luh·juhst

Have you ever been to an otorhinolaryngologist (ORL)? You may not think so, but the chances are that if you’ve had any problems with throat, nose or ears, then you have. The tongue-twister name Otorhinolaryngologist’ is derived from four Greek words (hence it’s length!) ‘otos’ – ear, ‘rhino’ – nose, ‘laryngo’ – windpipe, and ‘logos’ meaning science.

What is an Otorhinolaryngologist

Who is an Otorhinolaryngologist? An Otorhinolaryngologist is a specialist doctor who is trained in treating conditions the diseases of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck region of the human body.

The word Otorhinolaryngologist (better abbreviated as “ORL”) is derived from Greek words where ‘Otos’ means ear, ‘rhino’ means nose, ‘laryngo’ refers to the windpipe, and logos means science.
An Otorhinolaryngologist is a specialist doctor who is trained in treating the diseases of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck region of the human body.

What is the difference between an Otorhinolaryngologist the same as an ENTand an ENT doctor?

Yes. An Ear Nose and Throat Specialist (ENT), is just much easier to pronounce for most people. But otorhinolaryngology and ENTs refer to the same medical specialty. This is why if you’ve been referred to an ENT you can tell your boss you’ve been to an otorhinolaryngologist, to add that extra level of impressive medical jargon when you need time off for your doctor’s visit! though being different words are the same. The latter being the short version, which is much easier to recall and pronounce. Otorhinolaryngologists are also called ENT doctors or ENT surgeons.

What do Otorhinolaryngologists treat?

ENT Surgeons treat disease conditions affecting the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck. They treat people of all ages from newborn babies to the elderly. Some doctors prefer to spend their time in the Outpatient clinics managing the conditions clinically without the need for surgery. ENT is possibly the specialty with the widest range of operations from surgeries, microsurgeries, major head and neck surgeries with flap reconstruction, as well as .Who do otorhinolaryngologists treat? There is no age limit to the patients they treat. Anyone can develop a condition requiring their specialty from birth to the elderly.

What do Otorhinolaryngologists or ENTs treat?

There are numerous conditions that can be treated by these specialists, from recurring ear infections to cancers and even cosmetic surgery after trauma to the face area. Some doctors may prefer to specialise in certain areas, but generally, they are able to consult on all areas relating to this area of the body.

ENT is possibly the specialty with the widest range of operations from endoscopic surgeries, microsurgeries, major head and neck surgeries, as well as robotic procedures.

Here are just a few in their lengthy repertoire of treatment skills:
ENT surgeons treat a wide range of diseases which includes:

Ear
Otorhinolaryngologists are uniquely trained to treat ear conditions like hearing loss, infections, disorders of balance, tinnitus (ringing sensation in the ears). They also look into congenital auditory disorders (disorders present since birth) and certain cranial nerve disorders.
More precisely these conditions are Some fancy (and some not so fancy) medical terms for these will sound like:

  • Otitis Externa.
  • Ear wax.
  • Otomycosis
  • Otitis Media (Acute, Chronic, or Otitis Media with Effusion)
  • Labyrinthitis
  • Vertigo
  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Congenital conditions affecting the ear
  • Otosclerosis
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Tumors
  • Temporal bone fractures
  • Nose

The nose is the part of our body used for breathing, smell, and also during phonation. Some of the nasal conditions that otorhinolaryngologist treats are:

  • Nasal Vestibulitis
  • Deviated Nasal Septum
  • Nasal Bone fracture
  • Rhinitis (Acute and Chronic)
  • Allergies
  • Nasal polyp
  • Epistaxis
  • Trauma to the face
  • Acute or Chronic Rhinosinusitis
  • Neoplasms of the Nose and Paranasal Sinuses
  • Proptosis

Throat

An Otorhinolaryngologist treats conditions involving the lips to the larynx. They include:

  • Aphthous ulcer
  • Adenoid hypertrophy.
  • Tonsillitis
  • Pharyngitis
  • Epiglottitis
  • Snoring and Sleep Apnea
  • Swallowing disorders
  • Speech disorders
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease
  • Hoarseness
  • Laryngeal disorders
  • Any tumors from the lips to the larynx

Head and Neck

An Otorhinolaryngologist also treats conditions involving the head and neck such as:

  • Neck mass (congenital or acquired)
  • Thyroid swelling
  • Infections
  • Facial deformities requiring reconstruction or Plastic Surgery
  • Free flap reconstruction
  • Tumors of the Head and Neck

Cosmetic procedures

  • Rhinoplasty
  • Otoplasty
  • Blepharoplasty
  • Facial reconstruction following trauma to the face

Those may seem like some pretty intimidating and scary names, but many of them are not serious conditions at all. So, if your otorhinolaryngologist or ENT uses them, don’t panic – rather ask what the layman’s term is first!
Are OtorhinolaryngologisTraining and Education requirements as qualified as other doctors?

Absolutely, and in some cases, even more so.
Becoming an otorhinolaryngologist is a laborious process that requires intense dedication. A person has to undergo a minimum of 12 years of study and training at a uUniversity medical school, this consists of;. Training consists of:

  • 6 years of undergraduate education at a medical school
  • 1 year of Internship
  • 5 years or more of Clinical Specialty training (ENT) at a University

At the end of the specialty training, the candidate needs to pass the certification examination conducted by the College of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA) to receive a fellowship from the College of Otorhinolaryngologists of South Africa (FCORL (SA)). Those who meet the requirements set by the Health Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA) as a specialist will receive the designation of an Otorhinolaryngologist.
The study period varies depending on the country of is different in different study countries. Although, if they have studied in one country and want to practice in another, they would need to undergo further training to meet the qualifications of the country they want to practice in.

In the United States, for example, U.S. the candidate has to spend a minimum of 13 years to become an otorhinolaryngologist. Their medical students have to complete; The time needed to complete the training can be summarized as follows:

  • A 4-years college medical degree (equivalent to university)
  • 4 years of a specialist medical school, and
  • At least 5-years of residency training in otolaryngology
  • After completing the residency, they must pass the examination conducted by the American Board of Otolaryngology to be certified to practice.

And that’s not necessarily the end. Some surgeons choose to further specialize in a narrow field of subspecialty which requires a further one or two years of training period.
Subspecialties are specific areas of interest. These doctors will only see patients with particular conditions relating to their field, such as:

Subspecialties

  • ENT is one of the most competitive specialties in medicine. The most common subspecialties of this field are:
  • Head and neck oncologic surgery: This field of surgery treats cancer or /malignancy of the head and neck like oral cancer, laryngeal cancer, thyroid, parathyroid, or salivary gland cancer. Radical neck dissection.
  • Otology and Neurotology: It is the subspecialty that deals with diseases of the outer ear, middle ear and mastoid, and inner ear, as well as the surrounding structures like facial nerve and lateral skull base (temporal bone).
  • Rhinology: It includes dealing with the dysfunction of the nose and sinus which can present with symptoms of nasal obstruction, nasal septum deviations, sinusitis, and epistaxis.
  • Pediatric otorhinolaryngology: They have special skills to diagnose and treat ENT conditions like enlarged adenoids or tonsils, congenital head and neck conditions, sleep apnea, and those with delayed growth issues.
  • Laryngology and voice disorders: They are specialists who diagnose and manage voice disorders. The surgeon treats or can even alter the voice including the voice of professional voice users whenever the condition becomes pathological.

Facial plastic and reconstructive surgery: It is a subspecialty common to ENT specialists where a plastic surgeon performs aesthetic and reconstructive surgery of the head, face, and neck. Facial injury or excessive scars over the face which might arise due to trauma, burns (chemical or electrical), or disease conditions are commonly dealt with by facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons.

Sleep medicine: This may not seem like a condition that is dealt with by an ENT but there are many reasons why a person might be experiencing sleep disorders. Excessive snoring, for example, may originate from the nose and throat. TThis sub-specialty deals with sleep disorders, sleep apnea and sleep investigations, and an ENT may. The doctor also performs required surgery to help with these, when necessaryy whenever needed.

Are Audiologists the same as ENT doctors?

To maintain the overall health and well-being, hearing tests are performed by an Audiologist. An audiologist is a healthcare professional who specializes in identifying, diagnosing, and treating issues with the auditory and vestibular areas of the ear. If you need a hearing aid to manage your hearing loss, an audiologist will be able to advise you on the type of hearing aid you need. They also counsel the patient and their family to help them deal with the emotional aspects of hearing loss. They can also direct people to useful resources that will make it easier for them to live with their hearing loss.

An audiologist will refer you to an ENT doctor if you have an ear infection that could be causing a problem with your hearing. While an audiologist can help you to manage hearing loss, an ENT doctor can provide you the necessary treatments and possible surgery.

When should I see an otorhinolaryngologist?

It’s not likely you’ll have to make the decision to see an otorhinolaryngologist. Most times you will be referred to see a specialist An Otorhinolaryngologist by your GP after you’ve been to see them about something like these conditions; can help with conditions affecting your ear, nose, and throat. You need to consult them if you are experiencing conditions like:

  • Nasal blockage, excessive sneezing, or sinusitis.
  • Deviated Nasal Septum.
  • Sore throat.
  • Hoarseness or, difficulty breathing.
  • Recurrent or chronic tonsillitis
  • Ear infections or, ear discharge.
  • Decreased hearing abilities or tinnitus.
  • Vertigo or dizziness.
  • Snoring or sleep apnea
  • Snoring or sleep apnea.

Common procedures performed by an Otorhinolaryngologist

  • ENT doctors are trained to perform certain procedures. They have the benefit of making less scarring and quicker recovery. They include:
  • Tonsillectomy (removal of the tonsils) and adenoidectomy (removal of the adenoids)
  • Septoplasty – for correction of deviated nasal septum causing nasal blockage and difficulty breathing
  • Myringoplasty, Mastoid surgery – to reconstruct the tympanic membrane and clear the epithelial debris (Cholesteatoma) respectively.
  • Grommet insertion for glue ear – where a small incision is made in the tympanic membrane to ventilate the middle ear and resolve the middle ear effusion.
  • Micro laryngeal surgery – done to examine and perform a biopsy and/or surgery
  • Endoscopic sinus surgery – where endoscopes are inserted into the nose to diagnose and treat the sinus diseases and restore proper function.
  • Salivary gland tumors surgery (Parotidectomy, Submandibular gland excision)
  • Oesophagoscopy – to examine and remove foreign bodies from the esophagus.
  • Tracheostomy for acutely obstructed airway or long-term airway management in ICU patients.
  • Bronchoscopy – to examine the bronchus, remove foreign bodies from the windpipe.
  • Cosmetic surgeries like Rhinoplasty, Otoplasty, etc.

What can you expect from your first visit to the otorhinolaryngologist?

When you visit your ENT specialist with your complaints, your doctor will :
ask about your symptoms, and how long you’ve been experiencing them, as well as duration, and associated medical history or other problems you may be experiencing problems.

• Then, they’ll examine you based on the symptoms you have. They will do a general check-up of your ear, nose, and throat, with the main focus on the area of concern.
• They typically use fiberoptic equipment (for example, Nasopharyngolaryngoscope, bronchoscope) and examining microscopes to assist their examination.)

Common procedures performed by an Otorhinolaryngologist

ENT doctors are trained to perform certain procedures. They have the benefit of making less scarring and quicker recovery. They include:

  • Tonsillectomy (removal of the tonsils) and adenoidectomy (removal of the adenoids)
  • Septoplasty – for correction of deviated nasal septum causing nasal blockage and difficulty breathing
  • Myringoplasty, Mastoid surgery – to reconstruct the tympanic membrane and clear the epithelial debris (Cholesteatoma) respectively.
  • Grommet insertion for glue ear – where a small incision is made in the tympanic membrane to ventilate the middle ear and resolve the middle ear effusion.
  • Micro laryngeal surgery – done to examine and perform a biopsy and/or surgery
  • Endoscopic sinus surgery – where endoscopes are inserted into the nose to diagnose and treat the sinus diseases and restore proper function.
  • Salivary gland tumors surgery (Parotidectomy, Submandibular gland excision)
  • Oesophagoscopy – to examine and remove foreign bodies from the esophagus.
  • Tracheostomy for acutely obstructed airway or long-term airway management in ICU patients.
  • Bronchoscopy – to examine the bronchus, remove foreign bodies from the windpipe.
  • Cosmetic surgeries like Rhinoplasty, Otoplasty, etc.

How can you consult an Otorhinolaryngologist?

You can consult an Otorhinolaryngologist by:

  • You can get a referral from your primary care physician in some acute conditions where you require an ENT doctor consultation. They will also be able to recommend someone that they know and have worked with before. If you would rather use an ENT recommended by family or friends, then let your GP know and they can write a referral letter to the ENT of your choice.
  • Consulting your family, friends, or people you know who have been to an ENT doctor for an ear, nose, or throat condition. They can recommend you.
  • You can search for one through the internet, through the search tools in the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
  • Some centers also provide Telemedicine services where you can become a member and get consulted from your home or office.

Take-Home Message!

There are a few specialties in the field of surgery that have passed through the stage of dramatic development within a few decades. Medical science in all spheres has advanced at lightning speed over the past few decades. But with that comes new and scary-sounding terminology. Amongst them is Otorhinolaryngology. But, now that you know what an otorhinolaryngologist does you’ll know exactly what to expect if you ever need to see one. This specialty has undergone new advances each decade with the use of endoscopy, microsurgery, lasers, flap reconstructions, and plastic surgery. So, an Otorhinolaryngologist can offer his/her patient a wide range of diagnoses and treatments of disease conditions.

 

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