Mediastinoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to carefully examine the central part of the mediastinum, which is the space between your heart, lungs, windpipe, and esophagus. Mediastinoscopy is performed in the operating room. You will be given general anesthesia.
Your surgeon will make a small incision low in your neck near your collar bone and will gently lead a thin tube equipped with a tiny camera through the opening. Your doctor will take small samples of suspicious tissues to check for conditions like lung cancer or lymphoma. Mainly these biopsies will be taken from lymph nodes.
Complications of the procedure are rare, but can including bleeding, infection, and hoarseness from nerve injury.
Pathology: Analyzing biopsies
After you have a biopsy, the operating room nurse sends your tissue samples to our pathologists for review. A pathologist is a medical doctor who specializes in reviewing and evaluating cells and tissues to diagnose disease. Our pathologists analyze biopsy samples to determine whether the tissue is cancerous and, if so, what type of cancer it is. This evaluation by the pathologist can take up to 2 weeks.
At the Stanford Thoracic Cancer Program, our pathologists specialize in analyzing tissues of the chest and esophagus, including the mediastinum. That focus means they have extensive expertise interpreting biopsies and other tests to confirm or rule out a diagnosis.
Years of experience studying tissue from the lung and mediastinum every day means your pathologist can accurately identify critical details to help form an accurate diagnosis, which is vital to your treatment plan. Your care team takes the time to do a thorough evaluation from the start, so that your treatment will be more effective.
Thoracic tumor tissue bank
Our doctors and researchers work to thoroughly understand the true diversity of thoracic disorders and to identify the genetic abnormalities that can play in their formation. That’s why it’s critical that our doctors have access to tissue samples to plan for each patient’s care.
At Stanford, we often store tissue samples, so we can use them for research to expand our understanding and develop new treatments, using the following process:
- Before we perform a biopsy, if we think there will be sufficient tissue, we will sometimes ask you if we may keep a small portion of the sample with our tissue bank. Our top priority is to confirm your diagnosis. Only a tiny portion of excess tissue is shared for research, and only when we think there will be easily sufficient tissue.
- If you approve, the excess tissue then goes to our cancer researchers These doctors work with our clinicians (doctors involved in patient care) to identify new pathways of cancer formation and possible treatments.
Our tumor bank provides our doctors and other researchers with a variety of different types of cells to study. As we work on new methods and tools for diagnosing and treating thoracic, our goal is to move these findings from the lab into patient care.
Stanford Health Library
For confidential help with your health care questions, you may contact the Stanford Health Library. Professional medical librarians and trained volunteers can help you access journals, books, e-books, databases, and videos to learn more about medical conditions, treatment options, and related issues.