Mediastinoscopy

The mediastinum is the area in the middle of the chest between the lungs. A mediastinoscopy is a procedure to look at this area inside the chest. A tube with a light (mediastinoscope) is placed into the upper chest through a small opening (mediastinotomy). The light allows the doctor to see the area.

  • Call Your Doctor

    After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

    • Redness, swelling, pain, or bleeding from the wound
    • Chest pain
    • Swelling in the neck
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Hoarseness that lasts for more than a few days or worsens
    • Shortness of breath
    • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
    • Joint pain, fatigue, stiffness, rash, or other new symptoms

    In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

  • Definition

    The mediastinum is the area in the middle of the chest between the lungs. A mediastinoscopy is a procedure to look at this area inside the chest. A tube with a light (mediastinoscope) is placed into the upper chest through a small opening (mediastinotomy). The light allows the doctor to see the area.

    The Lungs (Cut-away View)
    Nucleus factsheet image
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • What to Expect

  • Reasons for Procedure


    This is done to examine the lungs and chest. The doctor might take tissue samples (
    biopsy
    ). These samples are viewed under a microscope to check for diseases like:


    • Cancer of the
      lungs
      , bronchi, and chest tissue

    • Lymphoma—cancer in the lymphatic system (eg,
      Hodgkin’s disease
      )
    • Infection
    • Inflammation
    • Sarcoidosis
      —a condition that causes swelling (inflammation) in organs like the lungs, liver, lymph nodes, and spleen

    Mediastinoscopy is also done to find out if lung cancer has spread.

  • Possible Complications

    Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have mediastinoscopy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

    • Bleeding
    • Infection
    • Hoarseness
    • Chylothorax—leakage of lymphatic fluid into the chest
    • Damage to organs in the chest
    • Pneumothorax
      (collapsed lung)

    Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

    • Previous mediastinoscopy or chest or neck surgery
    • Pregnancy
    • Diabetes or other chronic disease
    • Smoking

    Discuss these risks with your doctor before this procedure.