Definition and Overview
A general ENT consultation is an appointment with an otolaryngologist for conditions affecting the ears, nose and throat. Although the three organs appear distinct from one another, all of them are part of the upper respiratory system. They also have similarities, including the mucous lining. For example, in the ear, one can find the Eustachian tube, which is the canal responsible for regulating the pressure inside the ears and allows the correct movement of sound waves. This canal is connected to the nose through the back. Mucous can also run from the nose to the throat.
For this reason, if any of these three organs is problematic, there is a good chance that the others are also affected. If a person has a common cold, for example, the nose becomes runny, the throat irritated, and the ears experience a diminished capacity to hear clearly.
Doctors who specialise in ENT conditions are called otolaryngologists. Some people, however, tend to confuse these medical professionals with audiologists since they both manage the ears. While ENT doctors diagnose conditions affecting the ears, audiologists focus mainly on hearing loss and problems. They are the ones who perform a hearing assessment and help the patient select the best hearing aid.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
A general ENT consultation is conducted after a primary doctor, such as a paediatrician or an internist, refers the patient to an ENT specialist. This could be because the range of the condition or symptoms is already beyond the expertise of the former or initial treatments such as medications did not yield the expected results. It is also possible that there is a more serious underlying condition causing the illness.
A consultation may also be requested if the symptoms have worsened and have started to affect the daily activities of the patient. Some of the common signs and symptoms of an infection in the throat, ear and nose include fever, loss of appetite and fatigue, to name a few.
Also, a patient who may have some doubts over the initial diagnosis may see another otolaryngologist for a consultation for a second opinion.
An ENT consultation may be carried out if there are problems with balance including dizziness, as well as injury to the ears, nose and throat. It may also be conducted before the patient goes through reconstructive or cosmetic surgery.
Because of the close proximity of the head and neck, problems with these organs may also warrant a consultation with an ENT specialist.
How Does the Procedure Work?
A patient may see an ENT doctor after he receives a referral from his primary care provider or a general physician. The patient sets up an appointment with an otolaryngologist unless it is an emergency, such as a serious trauma, in which case a consultation is no longer necessary.
During the first consultation, the staff will take the patient’s personal information, medical history and medical records that are usually forwarded by the primary doctor to the ENT specialist.
During the consultation, the ENT specialist will:
Look into the medical data of the patient and ask about the reason for the consultation
Investigate the cause of the symptoms or the condition through a physical exam and other tests such as nasolaryngoscopy. Usually, the results are immediately available or released within the day. In some cases, such as in biopsy, the waiting time may take a few weeks.
Recommend treatments like medication, change of lifestyle such as a modified diet or cessation of smoking or alcohol
Since conditions affecting the ears, nose and throat can be complex, the ENT specialist may also refer the patient to other specialists such as a neurologist, an allergist, oncologist or audiologist (in the case of a hearing condition). These doctors are expected to work together for the welfare of the patient.
Depending on the patient’s condition and its severity, a patient may be scheduled for one or several consultations, each lasting at least half an hour.
Possible Risks and Complications
The complexity of the condition may mean that it will take some time before a correct diagnosis can be made. This, though, can be frustrating for the patient that he may no longer pursue more consultations.
Also, some of ENT tests may cause complications such as infection, bleeding, or trauma to the affected site or surrounding tissue. These complications, however, are often minor and usually clear up within a few days with treatment.
- American Academy of Otolaryngology