Bronchoscopy is the visual examination of the air passages leading into the lungs. The exam is done with a bronchoscope, a long, thin tube with a camera on the tip.
Bronchoscopy is most often done for the following reasons:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Smoking increases the risk of complications.
Your doctor may do some or all of the following:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure, like:
Leading up to your procedure:
Local anesthetic will be given to numb the throat. It will also help to prevent coughing and gagging. Sometimes, a bronchoscopy is done under general anesthesia. In this case, you will be asleep.
The bronchoscope is a long, thin tube. It will be inserted through the nose or mouth. The scope will be passed down the throat and into the lungs.
The scope sends an image of the lung tissue to a TV monitor. The doctor may use the images and the scope to remove a small tissue sample. If a foreign body is present, the doctor may be able to remove it through the scope. If a lavage is planned, a water solution may be used to wash an area. The solution is then removed and sent to a lab for examination.
Anesthesia prevents pain and coughing during the procedure. You may feel a tugging sensation when the doctor removes a tissue sample. You may also experience some breathing difficulty or shortness of breath during the procedure.
Expect some soreness in your throat and hoarseness for a few days after the procedure. Any discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
You may have an x-ray before you go home. This is to make sure there are no lung complications, such as bleeding or a pneumothorax. A pneumothorax can lead to a collapsed lung.
Once the numbness in your throat wears off, you may be given sips of water. You may gradually progress to solid food as tolerated.
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
The doctor may give you a report after the sedative wears off and you are alert. It may take a few days to receive results from a biopsy. It may take up to six weeks for findings from a tuberculosis test. Ask your doctor when to expect your results.
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Lung Association
American Thoracic Society
Canadian Lung Association
Explore bronchoscopy. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/bron. Updated February 8, 2012. Accessed September 11, 2013.
Fiberoptic bronchoscopy. American Thoracic Society website. Available at: http://patients.thoracic.org/information-series/en/resources/fiberoptic-bronchoscopy.pdf. Accessed September 11, 2013.
Lung cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated August 29, 2013. Accessed September 11, 2013.
Needle biopsy of the lung. Radiological Society of America Radiology Info website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=nlungbiop. Updated August 5, 2013. Accessed September 11, 2013.
6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.