What is a laryngoscope?

A laryngoscope is an illuminating medical instrument used by healthcare providers to allow visualization of a patient's pharynx and larynx. The pharynx is the area directly behind the nose and mouth, and the larynx is better known as the voice box. A laryngoscope is specially designed to fit into a patient's airway to allow a procedure known as orotracheal intubation, in which a tube is inserted through the mouth into the trachea, or windpipe, to deliver oxygen and medications and allow deep suction.

There are two components to this instrument: the laryngoscope blade and the handle. The handle contains the batteries needed for lighting and the blade, which is inserted into the airway, has a bulb at the end of which shines a bright light during use. These blades are not sharp and do not cut the skin in any way. Laryngoscope blades come in different sizes, with 0 being the smallest and 4 being the largest. The size of the patient to be intubated determines the size of blade the healthcare provider will use.

The typical laryngoscope handle and blade are two separate pieces that must be assembled before each use, but this can be accomplished in a matter of seconds, allowing clinicians and paramedics to use this instrument in respiratory emergencies requiring orotracheal intubation. A laryngoscope is not a large instrument; the handle is about the size of a doorknob, and the blade is slightly shorter than the handle. There are two types of laryngoscope blades: curved and straight. Both are inserted deep into the patient's airway.

A straight blade is used to raise a leaf-like structure called the epiglottis, which serves to prevent food and foreign matter from entering the trachea, and this type of blade is generally preferred when a pediatric patient must be intubated. A curved blade is preferred when an adult patient must be intubated. It is not the epiglottis that is lifted with a curved blade, which is inserted into another structure called the vallecula. Regardless of the type of blade used, the goal is the same, which is to allow visualization of the vocal cords through which the endotracheal tube can pass into the trachea. The importance of viewing the vocal cords lies in the fact that it is vital that the doctor or paramedic performing the orotracheal intubation ensure that the tube is placed in the trachea and not in the esophagus, the tube that leads to the stomach.

Go up