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. The tube may be flexible or rigid, depending on why it is being done.
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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:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as:
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.
Leading up to your procedure:
Local anesthetic will be given to numb the throat and you will have sedation. These 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 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.
The removed tissue or secretions will be sent to a lab for examination.
Less than 1 hour
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.
Right after the procedure, the staff may:
When you return home, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions. If you had to stop medications before the procedure, ask your doctor when you can start again.
You may be given 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 6 weeks for findings from a tuberculosis test. Ask your doctor when to expect your results.
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Lung Association
American Thoracic Society
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Lung cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 29, 2014. 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.
Last reviewed August 2015 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 9/9/2014