Mediastinoscopy is the name used to describe procedures that involve entering the area between the two lungs, where trachea and pulmonary lymph nodes are located. Entry is obtained through a 2-3 cm incision made on the neck. Patients usually mistake this for tracheostomy (or tracheotomy), where the trachea is punctured. However, this procedure requires an incision to be made in frontal area of the trachea without puncturing it. The skin is closed with absorbable sutures that are not visible from outside. Only a barely visible 2-3 cm scar remains upon successful completion of the procedure.
Mediastinoscopy is most commonly used for biopsy of lymph nodes, which is of prime importance in staging of lung cancer. It is also practiced for diagnosis of diseases like tuberculosis and sarcoidosis, which impact pulmonary lymph glands, and rarely some rheumatologic diseases involving such lymph glands (such as Wegener’s granulomatosis).
The procedure takes about half an hour, and patients can normally be discharged the next day.