Bronchoscopy (pronounced bron-kos-ko-pee) is a diagnostic examination of the major air passages of the lungs. It is done so that your chest physician can look inside your lungs. Your physician will insert a bronchoscope, which is a flexible tube about the width of a pencil, through your nose or mouth and into your windpipe (trachea).
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Should I Have a Bronchoscopy?
There are many reasons for having a bronchoscopy. Common ones include:
- Coughing up blood
- A persistent cough that has not responded to the usual medications
- Abnormal chest x-ray findings
Diseases of the lung can be analyzed with bronchoscopy by sampling the lung tissue. Samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis, from which your physician can make a diagnosis.
Adults, and children in particular, may inhale foreign bodies, such as peanuts, denture parts, pins, etc., into the lung. Sometimes a special grasping device can be inserted into the lung through the bronchoscope to remove the foreign body.
How should I prepare?
Do not eat or drink anything (including water) for 4 hours before the test. If your test is scheduled for first thing in the morning, do not eat or drink anything after midnight. It is important that your stomach be empty to avoid vomiting. Your physician will tell you if you should take your medications with a sip of water on the morning of the procedure. Bring someone to drive you home, or arrange for alternate transportation.
How is a Bronchoscopy performed?
- Before the procedure begins, you will receive medication that will help your relax and reduce coughing and throat irritation. A small IV needle will be inserted into a vein so that additional medications can be given.
- Your nurse or physician will connect you to a heart and blood pressure monitor. You will be given extra oxygen through your nose during the exam. At this point, additional sedative medication may be given through your IV.
- After the tube is passed through your nose or mouth and throat, it goes through your vocal cords to your windpipe and into your lung. When the tube passes through your vocal cords, you may feel like your cannot catch your breath. This feeling, however, is temporary and your physician will pause to let you catch your breath before continuing the examination.
- During the procedure medicine will be administered through the tube to help relieve any coughing. You can help by taking slow, shallow breaths through your mouth. Try not to talk while the tube is in your lungs. Talking can make you hoarse or give you a sore throat after the procedure.
Occasionally, the examination is done with the aid of x-ray equipment to help your physician locate the exact area from which to take biopsy specimens. You may feel pressure or tugging when the biopsy specimens are taken. However, pain is unlikely to occur during the bronchoscopy. A nurse will be present during the exam to assist your and the physician.
Is Bronchoscopy safe?
Bronchoscopy is a safe diagnostic procedure and carries little risk. Complications are infrequent, but if they occur, they may include pneumothorax (collapsed lung), bleeding at the biopsy site, allergic reaction to medicines, hoarseness, and fever. Only rarely do patients experience other, more serious complications.
What happens following the procedure?
When the procedure is finished, you will be observed by a nurse until you are awake enough to leave. Inform your nurse if your have:
- Any chest pain
- Difficultly breathing
- Notice a large amount of blood (more than one tablespoon) in your sputum. It is normal to cough up a “small” amount of blood for 1-2 days after the procedure.
The nurse will recheck your blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate prior to your discharge. The IV needle will be removed, and a chest x-ray may be taken.
Please refrain for eating or drinking anything for up to 2 hours after the procedure because your throat muscles will still be numb. When you are ready to be discharged, the nurse will go over some instructions with you, including who to call after the procedure, should you have any problems. A follow-up appointment will be made to discuss any questions you may have regarding the diagnostic examination and the results of the testing.
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