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Otorhinolaryngology (ENT) Learn more about a complex and fascinating branch of surgery.

We often talk about “ENT” but few really know the meaning of this acronym, which is not too familiar. First of all, we must distinguish between the specific branch of medicine, otolaryngology, and the doctor specialized in the ENT field.

Otorhinolaryngology is a surgical branch, quite distinguished from general surgery, which asserted itself at the beginning of the 20th century. This is a complex specialization because, unlike many others, it deals with organs that have to do with three of the five senses: hearing, taste and smell.

This medical and surgical branch concerns, in fact, the physiology and diseases that affect the ears, nose and throat (larynx and pharynx). It deals with the treatment of diseases of an anatomical region between the base of the skull and the upper orifice of the thorax: infections, deafness, vertigo, tumours, surgery of tonsils, adenoids, parotid glands and thyroid.

The practitioner is more often known by the name of ENT, an abbreviation for a more complex word: oto-rhino-laryngologist: term of Greek origin; “Oto” for ear, “rhino” for nose and “larynx” for throat.

A well-trained otorhinolaryngologist is a doctor that has more than 20 years of experience in the mastery of the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, bacteriology, pharmacology and pathology of all organs in his field of activity. In addition to exercising medical care in his ambulatory, he has the competence to perform several surgical procedures that can be summarized in three levels:

1. basic level: common diseases (ablation of tonsils and adenoids, interventions of the nasal septum and turbinates)

2. Intermediate level: surgery of the sinuses, minor salivary glands, benign lesions of the neck and vocal cords

3. advanced level: ear microsurgery, endoscopic sinus surgery, lachrymal surgery, parotid gland surgery, facial nerve surgery, thyroid surgery, oncology in ENT field and trauma surgery.

The activity of an ENT is thus very diversified and the doctor must be polyvalent, able to manage and understand the many pathologies, from birth to the most advanced age, to interpret sophisticated and modern diagnostic tests and to offer both medical therapies and other very complex surgical procedures.

For fifty years and with the progress and increasing complexity of medical care, the ENTs have even specialized in more specific fields of action: otology, rhinology, laryngology, thyroid surgery, cosmetic surgery of the head and neck , tumour surgery, allergy, broncho-oesophagology, to name a few.

What makes the task of the ENT surgeon particularly difficult is the extreme anatomical "crowding" of the head and neck area where, in confined spaces, many important and very similar structures are located. This peculiarity makes the branch of surgical otolaryngology complex and fascinating at the same time.

The ENT of the 21st century is a doctor and a surgeon who must follow a long and demanding training in his learning phase and thereafter continue his lifetime training in order to be up-to-date on new techniques and surgical methods and offer an excellent level of service to his patients.


Stéphane Hervé

ENT and head and neck surgeon,

Boulogne Billancourt, Le Chesnay

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