Authored by Dr Colin Tidy, 27 Jul 2015

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Hayley Willacy, 27 Jul 2015

Nasoendoscopy is a test to look inside the nose (nasal passage), throat (pharynx) and the voice box (larynx).

Note: the information below is a general guide only. The arrangements and the way tests are performed may vary between different hospitals. Always follow the instructions given by your doctor or local hospital.

Head and neck showing larynx

A nasoendoscopy is a test where an operator (a doctor or nurse) looks into your nose (nasal passage), throat (pharynx) and voice box (larynx).

An endoscope is a thin, flexible telescope. The endoscope is passed through your nose to the space behind your nose (the nasopharynx). It is then passed down through the space behind your mouth (the oropharynx) and to your voice box at the bottom of your throat.

The tip of the endoscope contains a light and a tiny video camera so the operator can see inside your nose, throat and voice box. The endoscope also has a 'side channel' down which various instruments can pass.

These can be used to take a small sample (biopsy) from the inside lining of your nose, throat or voice box by using a thin 'grabbing' instrument which is passed down a side channel.

A nasoendoscopy may be advised if you have symptoms in your nose or throat. The sort of conditions which can be assessed using nasoendoscopy include:

  • Recurrent nosebleeds.
  • Growths in the nose (nasal polyps).
  • Chronic sinusitis.
  • Suspected cancer of the nose, throat (nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal) or voice box (larynx).
  • Foreign body in the nose or throat.
  • Problems with speaking (dysphonia).
  • Problems with swallowing (dysphagia).
  • Breathing problems during sleep (obstructive sleep apnoea).

Nasoendoscopy does not need admission to hospital and can be done in a hospital clinic. It is a routine test which is commonly done.

Nasoendoscopy does not need a general anaesthetic but a local anaesthetic is used. The operator will numb the lining of your nose (nasal cavity) by spraying some local anaesthetic into your nose. Alternatively, the local anaesthetic may be squirted into your nose using a syringe.

You will be asked to sit upright with a headrest behind your head. The local anaesthetic usually starts working within a few minutes. The endoscope is inserted gently into one of your nostrils. The endoscope is then pushed slowly up through your nasal cavity, down through your throat (pharynx) and to your voice box (larynx). The video camera at the tip of the endoscope sends pictures to a screen. The operator watches the screen for any abnormalities of your nose, throat or voice box.

During the test you may be asked to perform several movements. These may include puffing out your cheeks, talking, swallowing some coloured water or poking out your tongue. These movements help the doctor or nurse to make a proper assessment for any abnormalities in your nose, throat or voice box.

The doctor or nurse may take one or more small samples (biopsies) of parts of the inside lining of the nose, throat or voice box - depending on why the test is done and what they see. This is not painful. The biopsy samples are sent to the laboratory for testing and to look at under the microscope. The endoscope is then gently pulled out.

A nasoendoscopy usually takes about five minutes. A nasoendoscopy may be uncomfortable but does not usually hurt.

Apart from the local anaesthetic there is no other preparation needed for the test.

You will be able to go home immediately after the doctor or nurse has discussed the findings of the nasoendoscopy. Your throat (pharynx) will usually feel numb until about one hour after the test. You should not eat or drink until your throat feels normal again. Having a nasoendoscopy does not affect your  driving home after the test.

Nasoendoscopy is a good test for seeing abnormalities in the nose, throat (pharynx) and voice box (larynx). However, it is not foolproof. Sometimes a repeat nasoendoscopy may be advised if symptoms persist or worsen, even if a previous nasoendoscopy was reported as normal.

Nearly all nasoendoscopies are done without any side-effects or complications. There may be slight soreness in your nose and throat (pharynx) for a day or so afterwards. Occasionally, the endoscope may cause sneezing, which stops immediately after the test. The endoscope may also occasionally cause slight bleeding from your nose. This also usually stops very quickly.

For years, I have had problems with breathing through my nose, and I've recently been to the doctor for it. As I took their medicine, it worked for a while until I ran out of one of the meds. Now, I'...

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