Mediastinoscopy is performed to sample the lymph node or mass around the trachea. A 3 cm incision is made at the top of the breastbone. The muscle overlying the airway is separated and a mediastinoscope is inserted into the chest. The lymph nodes or mass around the airway are identified, removed and sent to pathologist for analysis.
Mediastinoscopy is a very safe procedure. The most common rare complications are bleeding, pneumothorax and wound infection. There are also very rare complication of injury to the major vessels such as the pulmonary artery, aorta and azygus vein as well as injury to the trachea or bronchus. When these very rare complication occurs a median sternotomy may be required to fix the injury. Finally there is a very small chance of injuring the recurrent laryngeal nerve which controls your vocal cords. The injury to the recurrent laryngeal nerve may result in hoarseness and need for further procedure to correct the problem.
Mediastinoscopy is an outpatient procedure. After the operation, you will have a chest X-ray to ensure that there is no pneumothorax and once you recover from the anesthesia and your pain is well controlled you will be discharged home.