What is an Otolaryngologist – Head and Neck Surgeon?
An otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon is a Doctor of Medicine who specializes in disorders of the head and neck, particularly those disorders related to the ears, nose and throat. The word “oto-rhino-laryngology” comes from the Greek words – “oto” for ear, “rhino” for nose and “laryn” for throat.
Over the years, otolaryngology has expanded its area of expertise from the ears, nose and throat to a “regional” specialty of the head and neck and includes subspecialization in otology, neurotology, rhinology, sinus disease, laryngology, plastic surgery of the head and neck, tumour and cancer surgery of the head and neck, pediatric otolaryngology and allergic disorders of the upper respiratory system.
What Does it Take to Become One?
An otolaryngologist has approximately 13 years or more of university training. To receive a fellowship from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, they must complete university, four years of medical school and five or more years of specialty training. At the end of this time, he or she must pass a certification examination to receive designation as an otolaryngologist. In addition, some individuals pursue a further one or two years of subspecialty training.
What Does He or She Do?
Otolaryngologists 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 head and neck region.
Those specialty trained in ear work are well equipped to restore hearing through modern micro-surgery. Surgical techniques 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 technique is important in reconstructing the nose, ears, jaws and facial area to restore function and appearance. Grafts, flaps and man-made materials are used to solve many problems that could not be handled by conventional surgical methods. Techniques are also used for cosmetic facial plastic surgery such as face and brow lifts, improving the shape and size of the nose or ear, chin augmentation, wrinkle removal, scar camouflaging and hair transplantation.
Otolaryngologists’ training include planning and carrying out the surgery and treatment of benign tumours as well as cancer of the head and neck and the reconstructive techniques necessary to restore function and form in these patients.
Otolaryngologists routinely handle cases such as adenoidectomies, tonsillectomies, nose bleeds, infected mastoids and sinus disease. Most otolaryngologists can test hearing and diagnose the cause of hearing loss. Many also treat speech and communicative disorders. Others have special interest in neurotology and various problems of balance and allergic disorders of the upper respiratory system.