Videostroboscopy

Overview

What is a videostroboscopy?

A videostroboscopy is a test used to see the function of your vocal cords. Your healthcare provider uses a special camera to look inside of your larynx at your vocal cords while you speak or make sounds with your voice.

When would a videostroboscopy be needed?

Your healthcare provider may recommend a videostroboscopy if you have:

Who performs a videostroboscopy?

Depending on your needs, your test may be performed by a:

  • Laryngologist, a specialized otolaryngologist (ENT, or ear, nose and throat specialist) who specializes in disorders of the voice box and vocal cords.
  • Otolaryngologist, also called an ENT, diagnoses and treats conditions affecting your ears, nose and throat.
  • Speech-language pathologist, a therapist trained in language and speech disorders.
  • Nurse practitioner, a specialty-trained nurse practitioner who works with an otolaryngologist or laryngologist.

Test Details

How does a videostroboscopy work?

When you speak, sing or yell, your vocal cords vibrate rapidly to make sound. These vibrations are so fast that you can’t see them with the naked eye. Videostroboscopy uses a tiny camera to record a video of these vibrations so your healthcare provider can view them in slow motion. This slow motion, detailed view helps your healthcare provider see if your vocal cords are vibrating normally. It also reveals how a vocal cord condition or lesion affects vibration.

How do I prepare for a videostroboscopy?

As you don’t need general anesthesia (medicine that puts you to sleep) for this test, there’s little to no prep involved. Usually, you make an appointment and have the test done in your healthcare provider’s office.

If your child is having a videostroboscopy, they may want to bring a comfort item such as a stuffed animal. The comfort item can help if your child is nervous about the procedure.

What happens during a videostroboscopy?

Your healthcare provider performs a videostroboscopy as an outpatient test. It can usually be done in an exam room. When you arrive for your test:

  1. Your healthcare provider will apply topical numbing medicine to the inside of your nose. The effect will spread to your throat, so your throat will also be numb.
  2. Your healthcare provider ties a tiny microphone around your neck to record your vocal sounds.
  3. Then, they insert an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube) through your nose to the back of your throat. The numbing medicine keeps you comfortable and you won’t feel the endoscope.
  4. Your healthcare provider will ask you to speak or make sounds, such as “aah” or “eee” while they record the video of your vocal cords. This part of the test may take 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. After they’ve recorded a range of sounds, your healthcare provider will carefully remove the endoscope from your nose and throat.

What should I expect after a videostroboscopy?

The numbing medicine may take an hour or two to wear off completely. During this time, you may not be able to feel your nose and throat very well. If your throat is numb, you may need to avoid eating as it can make swallowing difficult. Drink only water or clear liquids until your throat feels normal again.

What are the risks of a videostroboscopy?

When a licensed, experienced healthcare provider performs videostroboscopy, the risk of problems or side effects is very low. The equipment doesn’t touch your voice box or vocal cords. You should have little to no pain afterward.

Results and Follow-Up

How soon will I get my results from videostroboscopy?

Your healthcare provider may talk to you about your results right after the test. You might get a diagnosis right away, or you may need further testing. If you need further tests or treatment, your doctor will walk you through next steps.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Certain conditions that affect the voice, such as vocal cord paralysis, can be serious without treatment. Seek immediate medical care if you notice:

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Videostroboscopy is an effective way for your healthcare provider to diagnose certain conditions that affect your voice. Most people don’t experience pain or discomfort during the test and there’s a low risk of problems or complications. After the test, you can usually get back to daily activities quickly. Your healthcare provider will discuss your results with you and create a treatment plan if needed.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/12/2022.

References

  • American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Vocal Cord Dysfunction. (https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-treatments/related-conditions/vocal-cord-dysfunction) Accessed 4/12/2022.
  • Chao S, Song SA. Videostroboscopy. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK567774/) [Updated 2021 Nov 15]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Accessed 4/12/2022.
  • Mehta DD, Deliyski DD, Hillman RE. Commentary on why laryngeal stroboscopy really works: clarifying misconceptions surrounding Talbot's law and the persistence of vision. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3553579/) J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2010;53(5):1263-1267. Accessed 4/12/2022.
  • Powell ME, Deliyski DD, Zeitels SM, et al. Efficacy of Videostroboscopy and High-Speed Videoendoscopy to Obtain Functional Outcomes From Perioperative Ratings in Patients With Vocal Fold Mass Lesions. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6801021/) J Voice. 2020;34(5):769-782. Accessed 4/12/2022.
  • Woo P. Objective Measures of Stroboscopy and High-Speed Video. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33166979/) Adv Otorhinolaryngol. 2020;85:25-44. Accessed 4/12/2022.

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