Mediastinoscopy is a surgical procedure that lets your physician examine the middle of your chest. Your physician may need to perform this procedure to:

  • Identify the cause of any abnormal masses
  • Determine if a cancer has spread to the lymph nodes

Your physician performs this surgery in an operating room. You will receive a general anesthetic that will make you sleep during the procedure. To keep your throat safely open as your head is tilted back during the surgery, your surgeon will place a breathing tube down your throat. Your surgeon will then make a small incision in your neck just above your breastbone and inserting a thin scope (the mediastinoscope) behind your breastbone. This allows your surgeon to obtain a biopsy of your lymph nodes in the center of your chest (mediastinum). This cell sample will be examined for:

  • Cancer cells
  • Inflammation
  • Infection

Your biopsy results will help your physician come up with the right treatment plan. 


Risks of this procedure include:

  • A small scar where the instruments are inserted. You may also experience some discomfort at the incision area for a few days.
  • In some cases, you may experience temporary injury to a nerve that can cause weakness in your vocal cord muscles. This may make your voice hoarse.
  • Rarely, bleeding can result. This may require a larger chest surgery. Air leaks from the lung may occasionally need additional treatment, such as the placement of a chest tube for drainage. This will be placed between the ribs and kept in place for a few days.

This surgery does not require an overnight hospital stay, although you should not drive or drink alcohol for the rest of the day.

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