Otolaryngologists are doctors that treat conditions in the ears, nose, and throat along with conditions in the head and neck. They are sometimes referred to as ENT (ears, nose, throat) doctors.
Currently, there are about 10,100 practicing otolaryngologists in the United States.
Otolaryngologists complete about 13 years of medical training to meet educational requirements. Students who want to become otolaryngologists must complete medical school and earn either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). Doctors will also need to complete a residency program and can choose to complete a specialty fellowship program.
After completing medical school, Otolaryngologists must complete a 5-year residency program to learn about issues relating to otolaryngology, surgery, anesthesiology, research, and clinical evaluation.
Otolaryngologists can choose to complete a specialty fellowship in either neurology or sleep medicine as offered by the American Board of Otolaryngology, or otolaryngologists can choose to specialize in other fields including:
- Pediatric otolaryngology
- Plastic and reconstructive surgery
- Head and neck (removal of cancerous tumors)
- Laryngology (disorders of the throat)
- Rhinology (disorders of the nose and sinuses)
All doctors need a medical license to practice medicine in the United States. To obtain these licenses, doctors must complete lengthy exams and meet other qualifications, which will vary from state to state. Medical licenses allow the doctor to practice any type of medicine and do not demonstrate qualifications in any one area of medicine.
Otolaryngologists earn board certification through the American Board of Otolaryngology. To maintain their license, otolaryngologists must take clinical medical education classes, maintain professional standing, and eventually retake the qualifying exam.
Where Otolaryngologists Work
Most otolaryngologists work out of private practices or hospital-based offices. Otolaryngologists may be self-employed or may work for hospitals, universities, or government agencies.
How They Help People
Otolaryngologists, or ear, nose & throat doctors, treat a wide range of conditions in the head and neck. Estimates show that over 20 million Americans visit otolaryngologists each year, many to treat common conditions like earaches, hearing loss, and nasal congestion.
About 20% of Americans, or 48 million people, report some degree of hearing loss. Otolaryngologists provide both non-invasive and surgical treatments for conditions in the ears like hearing loss, ear infections, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), balance disorders, and congenital defects of the inner and outer ear.
About 33 million Americans suffer from chronic sinusitis every year. Otolaryngologists treat conditions in the nose including allergies, nasal obstruction including deviated septum, and smell disorders.
Otolaryngologists treat conditions in the larynx and esophagus including problems with the voice and with swallowing. Tonsillitis is one major condition of the throat that otolaryngologists treat, with over 530,000 children under the age of 14 receiving tonsillectomies each year.
Head and Neck
Otolaryngologists treat a wide range of conditions that affect sight, smell, hearing, and deformities of the face. Otolaryngologists diagnose and treat cancer in the head and neck. These cancers account for 3% of all cancers in the United States. Otolaryngologists may also perform plastic and reconstructive surgery. Otolaryngologists sometimes treat the same conditions that dermatologists and maxillofacial surgeons treat.
Otolaryngologists will treat patients with medication for conditions like allergies, acid reflux, or bacteria infections causing a sore throat. They will talk with patients about lifestyle changes when needed. Otolaryngologists usually perform about 300 surgical treatments each year, including procedures to remove tumors, repair a deviated septum, insert cochlear implants (hearing), and complete plastic and maxillofacial procedures.
The average salary for otolaryngologists is $337,000.
Medical Negligence and Otolaryngologists
Studies of closed malpractice cases against otolaryngologists have found that the most common cause of malpractice is the failure to diagnose and treat closely followed by delayed diagnosis and treatment. About 3% of all specialty medicine malpractice cases are linked with otolaryngologists. Conditions in the head, ears, throat and nose can affect the health of the brain, and can be very dangerous for patients when not diagnosed and treated quickly. For example, sinusitis may present as bad allergies, but when left untreated the infection can spread to the brain and cause brain damage.
Otolaryngologists must treat patients according to the standard of care, including properly performing all diagnostic procedures. Otolaryngologists must order the necessary diagnostic tests like CT or MRI scans, must properly interpret the results of those tests, and must create an effective treatment plan for the patient's condition.
Other common claims against otolaryngologists include the improper performance of a procedure, failure to monitor a case, and unnecessary procedures. Surgeries performed in the head and neck can go dangerously wrong and obstruct airways or cause brain damage.
The most common injuries cited in malpractice cases against otolaryngologists were hearing loss followed by injuries during sinus surgery.
To prevent malpractice, otolaryngologists should develop a close relationship with their patients and maintain excellent communication about symptoms and treatments. Otolaryngologists should also know when to refer patients to other specialty doctors.
Experienced Maryland ENT Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Otolaryngologists are trained to recognize conditions of the ears, nose, throat, head, and neck so that patients can receive proper diagnoses and treatments for their conditions. When a doctor fails to diagnose and treat a patient, patients can suffer irreparable harm. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury while under the care of an otolaryngologist, call Gilman & Bedigian today. Our experienced malpractice attorneys have successfully litigated cases across Maryland and have a track record of success in getting malpractice victims the compensation they deserve. Call (800) 529-6162 today or schedule your free consultation online.