American Board of Otolaryngology - What You Need to Know

Posted January 31, 2020
American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

Since 1924, the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery has ensured professional standards and offered training in the fields of head and neck surgery. On their website, the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery (ABOto) lists its mission as serving “the public by assuring that diplomates meet our standards of training, knowledge and professionalism through initial and continuing certification.” The organization is a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) and, as part of their membership in the ABMS, they have a commitment to the promotion of professionalism and safe, high-quality care for patients.

American Board of Otolaryngology Certification Process

American Board of Otolaryngology The process of becoming certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery consists of taking a computerized qualifying exam and an oral certifying examination.

All candidates for becoming board-certified are required to take a computerized qualifying exam that is administered each fall throughout the United States. Candidates that meet, or exceed, the minimum passing score on the computerized qualifying exam are then allowed to take the oral certifying exam the following spring. If the candidates do not meet the minimum passing score on the exam, they must wait until the next year to reapply to take the exam once again.

If the candidate is eligible to take the oral certifying exam in the spring, the person is given three consecutive opportunities to take the exam in order to pass the oral certifying exam. If the candidate does not get a passing score after the three opportunities, the person must reapply to take the written exam.

Otolaryngology Explained

According to the board website, an otolaryngologist, AKA a head and neck surgeon, is a medical professional that treats “diseases, allergies, neoplasms, deformities, disorders and/or injuries of the ears, nose, sinuses, throat, respiratory and upper alimentary systems, face, jaws and the other head and neck systems.” Some of the fundamental areas of expertise covered by these doctors include head and neck oncology, disorders related to the voice and hearing and facial and plastic reconstructive surgery.

Doctors must have five years of specialty training before they are eligible to become board-certified.

There are multiple subspecialties related to the treatment of the head and the neck that require additional training and assessment. The amount of additional assessment and training is specified by the board. These subspecialties include:

  • Plastic Surgery within the Head and the Neck – An otolaryngologist that has additional training in this area has additional expertise in performing plastic and reconstructive procedures within the head, face and neck. The doctor also has additional training in treating any associated structures and this includes cutaneous head and neck oncology and reconstruction as well as soft tissue repair, the management of maxillofacial trauma and cosmetic surgery.
  • Neurotology – A neurotologist is a person with expertise in the management of diseases related to the inner ear, the skull base and temporal bone.
  • Sleep Medicine – This medical subspecialty requires a doctor with expertise in the “diagnosis and management of clinical conditions that occur during sleep, that disturb sleep, or that are affected by disturbances in the wake-sleep cycle.” A specialist in sleep medicine is a person that is skilled in analyzing and interpreting comprehensive polysomnography (a sleep study) as well as any emerging research that comes from a sleep laboratory.
  • Complex Pediatric Otolaryngology – This medical subspecialty involves the treatment of children and infants with disorders that include both congenital and acquired conditions that involve the nose and paranasal sinuses, the ear, the aerodigestive tract and other areas of the neck and head. In addition, a pediatric otolaryngologist diagnoses, treats and manages childhood disorders that involve speech, language, voice and hearing,

Verifying American Board of Otolaryngology Certification

Checking the board-certification status of an otolaryngologist is an important step in choosing a doctor to handle any medical needs related to the head and the neck such as a neck lift or neck contouring. The fact that doctors are board-certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery means they are current in their knowledge, skills and experience in treating issues related to the head and neck.

In order to determine if the doctor being considered by the patient is board-certified, patients should visit to find out about the current board certification of the doctor of choice.

In addition, the current board certification status of the doctor is also available through the American Board of Medical Specialties website. Their website includes information on over 900,000 physicians.

Before making the final decision to undergo head or neck surgery, patients should schedule a consultation appointment with a physician that is board-certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. If the doctor is board-certified by this medical board, patients can be assured that the doctor has passed the necessary examinations, as well as performed the required number of years of specialty training, in order to obtain board certification and to provide superior results when it comes to head and neck surgery for patients of all ages.



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