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Upper airway biopsy

Upper airway biopsy is surgery in which a small piece of tissue is removed from the nose, mouth, and throat area for examination.

Alternative Names

Biopsy - upper airway

How the test is performed

The health care provider will spray a numbing medicine in your mouth and throat. A metal tube is inserted to hold your tongue out of the way.

Another numbing medicine flows through the tube down the back of the throat. This may cause you to cough at first. When the area feels thick or swollen, it is numb.

The health care provider looks at the abnormal area, and removes a small piece of tissue. It is sent to the laboratory for examination.

How to prepare for the test

 Do not eat for 6 - 12 hours before the test.

Tell your health care provider if you take a blood thinner such as aspirin, plavix or coumadin when you schedule the biopsy. You may need to stop taking them for a little while. Never stop taking any medicines without first talking to your health care provider.

How the test will feel

As the area is being numbed, you may feel like there is fluid running down the back of your throat. You may feel the need to cough or gag. And you may feel pressure or mild tugging.

When the numbness wears off, your throat may feel scratchy for several days. After the test, the cough reflex will return in 1 - 2 hours. Then you may eat and drink normally.

Why the test is performed

This test may be done if your doctor thinks there is a problem with your upper airway. It may also be done with a bronchoscopy .

Normal Values

The upper airway tissues are normal, with no abnormal growths.

What abnormal results mean

Disorders or conditions that may be discovered include:

What the risks are

  • Bleeding (some bleeding is common, excessive bleeding is not)
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Sore throat

There is a risk of choking if you swallow water or food before the numbness wears off.

References

Yung RC, Boss EF. Tracheobronchial endoscopy. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2010:chap 75.

Updated: 12/12/2012

Ashutosh Kacker, MD, BS, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Associate Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon.


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