What is a bronchoscopy?

A bronchoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to examine your airways which lead into the lungs. Your doctor will pass an instrument called a bronchoscope through your nose or mouth and down your throat to reach your lungs. The bronchoscope is made of a flexible fiber-optic material and has a light source and a camera on the end.

Why does a doctor order a bronchoscopy?

Using the bronchoscope, your doctor can view all of the structures that make up your respiratory system. These include your larynx, trachea, and the smaller airways of your lungs, which include the bronchi and bronchioles.

A bronchoscopy can be used to diagnose:

  • a lung disease
  • a tumor
  • a chronic cough
  • an infection
  • Remove foreign bodies
  • Place stents, etc

Preparing for a bronchoscopy

A local anesthetic spray is applied to your nose and throat during a bronchoscopy. You’ll probably get a sedative to help you relax. This means that you’ll be awake but drowsy during the procedure. Oxygen is usually given during a bronchoscopy. General anesthesia is rarely needed.

You’ll need to avoid eating or drinking anything for 4 to 6 hours before the bronchoscopy. Before the procedure, ask your doctor if you need to stop taking:

Bronchoscopy procedure

Once you’re relaxed, your doctor will insert the bronchoscope into your nose. The bronchoscope passes from your nose down to your throat until it reaches your bronchi. The bronchi are the airways in your lungs.Brushes or needles may be attached to the bronchoscope to collect tissue samples from your lungs. These samples can help your doctor diagnose any lung conditions you may have.

Risks of a bronchoscopy

Bronchoscopy is safe for most people. However, like all medical procedures, there are some risks involved. Risks may include:

  • bleeding, especially if a biopsy is done
  • infection
  • trouble breathing
  • a low blood oxygen level during the test

Contact your doctor if you:

  • have a fever
  • are coughing up blood
  • have trouble breathing

Recovery from a bronchoscopy

A bronchoscopy is relatively quick, lasting about 30 minutes. Because you’ll be sedated, you’ll rest at the hospital for a couple of hours until you feel more awake and the numbness in your throat wears off. Your breathing and blood pressure will be monitored during your recovery.You won’t be able to eat or drink anything until your throat is no longer numb. This can take one to two hours. Your throat might feel sore or scratchy for a couple of days, and you might be hoarse. This is normal. It usually doesn’t last for a long time and goes away without medication or treatment.