What does an ENT doctor do?


Scope of activities

Otorhinolaryngology, usually abbreviated as ENT, is the medical specialty that deals with the research and treatment of disorders of the ears, nose and throat. Otorhinolaryngology is also concerned with disorders in the neck region such as swelling in the neck, the salivary glands, and  esophageal abnormalities. Typical treatments in the field of otorhinolaryngology include removal of the adenoids and tonsils and placement of ear tubes. There is also a close collaboration with speech therapists and audiologists. In the Netherlands, this discipline is usually referred to as KNO-surgery, in Flanders as NKO-surgery and in France as ORL-surgery. In reality, the ENT doctor could be better described as a surgeon for ears, nose, throat and other head-neck disorders because these medical specialists also perform significant surgeries in these areas of the body.  The ENT doctor also has experience in  facial plastic surgery, both reconstructive and cosmetic.

Broadly speaking, the ENT doctor spends 75% of work on consultation and 25% performing interventions, such as surgery and outpatient treatment.

Throat

In addition to the better known operations such as removal of adenoids and tonsils or resolving a a too-short lingual frenulum, the ENT doctor also performs less well-known interventions. Surgery of the soft palate to reduce snoring and  treatment of swellings in the mouth and salivary glands are examples. Hoarseness, usually caused by abnormalities in the vocal cords, will be treated surgically in a number of cases. Often, however, voice recommendations or speech therapy may be appropriate. The detection and treatment of malignancies in the oral and throat cavities also belong to the ENT doctor's purview. In the early stages, these conditions are often well treated with radiation and sometimes with medication. In more advanced stages, surgery may be necessary. The ENT doctor will perform this operation, sometimes in collaboration with clinicians from other specialties.

Nose

In addition to the surgical treatment of nasal congestion complaints caused by septal deviations and turbinate swellings, ENT  physicians also perform sinus surgery. With modern techniques it is possible to treat the sinus cavities through the nostrils. In this way, abnormalities such as nasal polyps and sinus inflammations (a common cause of headache) can be eliminated. By far most the surgeries on the internal and external nose, including the nose tip, are performed by the ENT physician  because of the close relationship between the shape and the function of the nose. Many abnormalities of the nose shape are caused by internal abnormalities and are accompanied by disorders of function.

Another form of nasal functioning disorder is caused by allergy (hypersensitivity). The ENT doctor also investigates and treats the complaints caused by allergy of the upper respiratory tract.

Ears

Concerning the ears, the ENT physician not only performs corrections of the auricle but also treats disorders of the ear canal, the tympanic membrane and the middle ear. These abnormalities, which are often caused by inflammation, give rise to hearing impairment, tinnitus or equilibrium disorders, and surgery is performed using a  surgical microscope. Surgical treatment in the inner ear is also possible with a cochlear implant today. For age-related hearing loss, the ENT doctor can adjust a hearing aid.

Neck

Swelling in the upper part of the neck, benign or malignant, is often caused by mouth, throat, or nose disorders. The ENT doctor can recognize these disorders with his diagnostics relatively easily and quickly.  The physician  not only conducts this investigation, but also treats such tumors. The same applies to swallowing problems caused by abnormalities in the upper part of the esophagus.

Facial plastic surgery

The ENT doctor corrects both the shape and function of the nose. In addition, the ENT is involved in the surgical treatment of facial paralysis, cleft palate, and facial swelling.

The scientific society organizes national congresses and courses for the advanced training of ENT doctors.