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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago


Mediastinoscopy is a surgical procedure that lets your doctor examine the middle of your chest to:

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

Your doctor performs this surgery by making a small incision in your neck just above your breastbone. Your doctor then inserts 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). Your doctor will then check this cell sample for:

  • Cancer cells
  • Inflammation
  • Infection

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

How Mediastinoscopy is Performed

Your doctor 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 doctor will place a breathing tube down your throat.

Risks to the Procedure

You may get 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 weakens 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.


Last UpdateFebruary 14, 2012