Video otoscopy is the use of a short, rigid endoscope that uses a video camera to transmit images to a larger screen for magnification. In order to illuminate the ear canal, the scope contains fiber optics in order to transmit a bright light. Video otoscopes also contain a working channel, allowing instruments and irrigation in order to obtain samples from deep in the ear canal as well as to remove debris in the ear canal.
The video otoscope is useful in diagnosing and managing ear canal diseases and conditions. Handheld otoscopes do not allow the doctor to see through any fluid or debris, while the video otoscope allows visualization through water, allowing better observation and diagnosis. Utilizing the irrigating function on the video otoscope, the doctor can also remove debris that may be deep in the ear canal. Thus, the video otoscope is valuable in many ways: it performs deep ear cleaning (removing debris adhered deep in the ear canal); it allows flushing/cleaning behind a ruptured ear drum; and it allows for diagnosing, biopsying, and occasionally removing tumors in the ear canal.
While the video otoscope may be used for routine examinations, it is most commonly employed for cleaning or diagnostic procedures on diseased ears with the patient under general anesthesia. Anesthesia is employed for the following reasons: 1) to ensure the patient is completely still while working near the ear drum in order to prevent damage to the delicate structures, 2) to protect the patient’s airway from any fluid that may flow from the ears to the throat (via the Eustacian tube) during the irrigation procedure. The safest and appropriate medications with direct monitoring are used during the anesthetic procedure, but no anesthetic procedure is free of risk. Very rarely, patients may have unexpected, even life threatening side effects during anesthesia. Thankfully, all of these events are extremely rare.
Video otoscopy itself is a safe procedure. Deep ear procedures are usually out-patient, meaning that the patient will be dropped off in the morning and returns home in the afternoon/evening. The patient may be tired for the next 1-2 days following the procedure due to the anesthesia. Rare side effects of the video otoscopy procedure includes decreased hearing, dizziness, head tilt or difficulty blinking on the affected side. If these side effects occur, they are usually temporary, but can be permanent in rare cases.
Benefits of video otoscopy deep ear procedures are that it is typically the safest, most cost effective and best method to diagnose and treat serious ear diseases. The doctors will discuss this procedure for your pet following examination if it appears to be the best next step for your pet.