DefinitionBronchoscopy 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.
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Reasons for ProcedureBronchoscopy is most often done for the following reasons:
- Diagnose a lung disease or infection
- Examine obstructions and secretions
- Obtain a tissue sample, called a biopsy
- Obtain a secretion sample
- Investigate the source of a persistent cough or blood that is being coughed up
- Check for a foreign object that may have accidentally been inhaled rather than swallowed
Possible ComplicationsProblems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Reaction to anesthesia
- Collapsed lung
- Irregular heart rate
- Sore and swollen throat
- Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity
What to Expect
Prior to ProcedureYour doctor may do some or all of the following:
- Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.
- The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
AnesthesiaLocal 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.
Description of the ProcedureThe 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 monitor. The images and the scope may be used to remove a small tissue sample. If a foreign body is present, it may be removed 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.
Immediately After ProcedureThe removed tissue or secretions will be sent to a lab for examination.
How Long Will It Take?Less than 1 hour
How Much Will It Hurt?Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. You may feel a tugging sensation when the doctor removes a tissue sample. You may also have 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.
Post-procedure CareAt the Care CenterRight after the procedure, the staff may:
- Take an x-ray of your lungs.
- Encourage you to sip water. You will gradually progress to solid foods.
- If you had to stop medications before the procedure, ask your doctor when you can start again.
- Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
Call Your DoctorAfter arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Coughing up more than a teaspoon of blood
- Severe nausea or vomiting
- Increased or unusual stridor, which is a noisy sound that is heard when breathing
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
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 9,2014.
Fiberoptic bronchoscopy. American Thoracic Society website. Available at: http://patients.thoracic.org/information-series/en/resources/fiberoptic-bronchoscopy.pdf. Accessed September 9, 2014.
Lung cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 29, 2014. Accessed September 9, 2014.
Needle biopsy of the lung. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=nlungbiop. Updated September 10, 2013. Accessed September 9, 2014.
6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 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.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 08/2014
- Update Date: 09/09/2014