Otolaryngology is the branch of medicine devoted to the health of the ears, nose, throat and upper respiratory tract. Otolaryngologists provide both medical and surgical care for congenital and acquired conditions involving the throat, nose and paranasal sinuses, the ear, and other areas of the head and neck. This specialty can treat and manage diseases and injuries, as well as disorders affecting voice, speech, language and hearing. Otolaryngologists can also fit and manage prosthetic devices such as speech boxes that allow larynx cancer patients to speak. Otolaryngologists affiliated with Roger Williams Medical Center diagnose and treat a broad range of problems described below.
Examples of ear problems our affiliated otolaryngologists treat include infections, fluid build-up in the middle ear and infections of the inner ear such as labyrinthitis, which causes dizziness and body imbalance. Treatments include antibiotics for minor ear problems such as earaches and infections, and surgery for major problems. In the case of persistent fluid, for example, a plastic tube is inserted through a small cut in the eardrum to drain the fluid and allow air to ventilate the middle ear and eliminate harmful bacteria. Untreated ear infections can lead to serious problems such as mastoiditis (skull infection), meningitis (brain and spinal cord membrane infection) and permanent hearing loss.
Bacterial sinusitis and anatomical defects are among the problems otolaryngologists diagnose and treat. The standard treatment for sinusitis is antibiotic medication, but persistent infection may be related to underlying factors such as allergies, asthma, structural defects or immune system weakness, and may require surgery or additional drug therapies. Anatomical defects that cause breathing blockage and other problems are treated with surgery. Problems treated surgically include septal deviation, nasal polyps, and closed ostia.
Our affiliated otolaryngologists diagnose and treat conditions such as tonsillitis, enlarged adenoid, dysphagia (a condition that impairs or destroys the ability to swallow caused by weak muscles or nerve damage) and the rare condition epiglottitis, which is the infection of the punching-bag-shaped tissue at the back of the throat. Epiglottitis is life threatening because it progresses rapidly, swelling the epiglottis which blocks the windpipe and breathing. It is treated with antibiotics. Throat problems such as a severely enlarged adenoid often require surgery to restore normal breathing and speech.