Laryngoscope Sets Buying Guide

Your larynx, or voice box, is hidden behind layers of bone and cartilage and tissue and skin, which can make it a bit difficult to examine. In fact, the examination of the larynx even has its own name: laryngoscopy. Laryngoscope sets help doctors and other medical professionals investigate the larynx manually. In this guide, we explain what the larynx and laryngoscopy are before diving into what features you should look for in a laryngoscope set.

Doctor examines child neck

What is your larynx and why is it important?

More commonly known as your voice box, your larynx sits at the top of your trachea (aka your windpipe) and helps you speak. The larynx closes when you swallow, keeping food and other foreign particles from entering your lower respiratory tracts. When you talk, the air expelled from your lungs moves up your trachea and strikes your vocal cords, causing vibrations. Your mouth then further shapes the air to articulate the sound. You can still produce sound through the esophagus if the larynx is ever removed, but the larynx offers more control over pitch and volume.

Laryngoscope blade

What is laryngoscopy?

Simply put, laryngoscopy is the examination of the larynx. The examination is usually an outpatient procedure, and sometimes it takes as little as 10 minutes. Patients may need to stop blood-thinning medications a few days before the procedure (if applicable) and stop eating and drinking a few hours in advance. Patients may be able to sit up or may have to lie down on their back. Usually their throat will be sprayed with a numbing agent, though in serious cases they may be put under general anesthesia. Patients shouldn’t eat or drink until the numbness wears off, but usually the recovery is pretty easy.

There are two main types of laryngoscopy—direct and indirect. For indirect laryngoscopy, the doctor will aim a bright light at the back of the throat and use a tilted mirror to examine the larynx. In direct laryngoscopy, the doctor will insert an actual laryngoscope through the nose or throat and down into the larynx. The laryngoscope may be flexible and made from a fiber optic cable, or rigid and made from metal. We delve further into the types of laryngoscopes in the last section on choosing a laryngoscope set.

Doctor attaches blade to laryngoscope handle

Reasons patients may need a laryngoscopy:

  • They have a sore throat that won’t go away
  • They have an earache that won’t go away
  • They have ongoing coughing and/or hoarseness
  • They have chronic bad breath
  • They have something stuck in their throat
  • They have trouble breathing or swallowing
  • They are exhibiting symptoms of a serious problem in the area, such as cancer
  • They have a growth that needs to be removed

What should you look for in a laryngoscope set?

Direct laryngoscope sets follow the same basic design: a battery-powered handle with a metal “blade” that is used to move the epiglottis out of the way to clearly expose the larynx. Direct laryngoscope blade sizes vary from 0 (neonatal) to 4 (large adult). Most sets, such as this Welch Allyn laryngoscope, will include at least sizes 1 through 4. The two main styles of blades are a curved blade and a straight blade. The most common curved blade is the Macintosh and the most common straight blade is the Miller, but there are many different blades such as Phillips, Robertshaw, Sykes, Wisconsin, Wis-Hipple and so on. These different models may incorporate other features such as mirrors (to increase the field of view) and ports to administer oxygen. Each style of blade requires a slightly different technique to use.

Laryngoscope handle shown with three different sized blades

With the advance of technology, indirect laryngoscope sets featuring a video camera on a flexible fiber optic cable have become more popular. Direct laryngoscopy may not allow for all the critical areas of the larynx to be viewed, and video camera laryngoscopes are often able to investigate more of a larynx. However, these laryngoscopes present their own drawbacks, such as the potential fogging of the camera lens.

Choosing a laryngoscope set is partly a matter of preference, so think through what you want and if there’s a certain style of blade you like working with over another. Laryngoscopes can cause soft tissue damage if not used properly, so you want to invest in a quality, durable set that will be comfortable for both you and your patients to use for years to come.

More Articles