A head and neck surgeon specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of a broad spectrum of disorders of the ear, nose, throat, and other areas of the head and neck. Certification requires an average of 15 years of focused higher education, in addition to passing board certification exams. Highly skilled and often highly specialized, these surgeons are on the forefront of the advancement of medical treatment. Our physicians often work in conjunction with other specialists to provide patients with the best possible care.
Disorders of the ear are very common. Ear issues can include loss of hearing, ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus), chronic or severe ear infections, problems with balance, and vertigo. Examples of surgeries that might be performed in this area include implanting hearing devices and auditory nerve repair. Otolaryngologist surgeons also provide surgical care surrounding birth defects and severe injury to the ear.
One of the most prevalent illnesses that are seen today is chronic sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis is a condition in which the passageways around the nasal cavities become inflamed and swollen. Swelling and inflammation generally cause problems with mucus drainage. This causes symptoms such as difficulty breathing due to swelling or thickened mucus discharge, facial and/or ear pain, sore throat, cough, pain around the eyes, headache, and decreased sleep. Endoscopic surgical treatment for sinusitis can bring great relief to patients suffering from this chronic condition. A head and neck surgeon would also treat conditions such as nasal polyps and a deviated septum.
Throat conditions, including anything affecting the esophagus, larynx, or thyroid gland, are often treated by a head and neck surgeon. Polyps can form in these areas and cause moderate to severe symptoms. Removal of these polyps is often necessary to restore normal function and to determine if the polyps are benign or cancerous.
Surgery for cancer diagnosis and treatment is a vitally important area of expertise for a head and neck surgeon. Surgery is sometimes the only necessary treatment. Other treatment plans may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy. These treatments may happen before or after surgical treatment, depending on the individual’s need. Removal of damaged or cancerous portions of the vocal cords or thyroid gland is sometimes necessary. If cancer in the throat has spread to the lymph nodes or is likely to, then removal of the nodes in full or part may also be the best course of action. In addition, advanced or complex cases of skin cancer are often treated with surgery.
Specialty treatment that may be provided by a head and neck surgeon can include reconstructive procedures due to a birth defect, injury, or cancer removal. The goal of these types of procedures is to restore normal function and appearance. Some surgeons specialize in transoral robotic surgery and transoral microsurgery. Both of these surgeries are minimally invasive and are done through the mouth. Use of these types of surgery would be dependent upon the location and accessibility of the area in need of treatment. These techniques are most often used for cancer removal.
Many surgeons now specialize in endoscopic skull base surgery. This involves the insertion of precision microtools through the nose. These instruments can safely reach the surgical area, thus avoiding the traditional open skull surgical method. Recovery from less invasive procedures is often dramatically simpler. However, sometimes surgeons must open the skull to provide the best possible treatment.
As with any medical concern, it is best to seek treatment early. Delay in seeking treatment can negatively affect the outcome of your surgical procedure or treatment plan.
Seeking medical treatment can often feel intimidating and stressful. Rest assured that your complete care and comfort are of the highest priority to the dedicated professionals in our offices.
Years of advanced training are required for a head and neck surgeon, and finding one specialized in the area of your area of concern will be your greatest resource in managing your illness or injury. At The University of California Irvine Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, we see patients of all ages for all types of subspecialties relating to the ears, nose, throat, head, and neck. Our physicians and researchers undergo specialty training and complete continuous education consistently in order to provide the most up to date information, diagnostics, and treatments.
Call one of our offices as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. Getting answers to your questions will ease your mind and set you on an educated treatment path.