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Bronchoscopy


Alternative Names:

Fiberoptic bronchoscopy

How to Prepare for the Test:

Follow instructions on how to prepare for the test. You will likely be told:

  • Not to eat or drink anything 6 to 12 hours before the test
  • Not to take aspirin, ibuprofen, or other blood-thinning drugs before the procedure. Ask the doctor who will do the bronchoscopy when to stop taking these drugs.
  • Arrange for a ride to and from the hospital
  • Arrange for help with work, child care, or other tasks, as you will likely need to rest the next day

Usually, the test is done as an outpatient procedure and you will go home the same day. Some patients may need to stay overnight in the hospital.

How the Test will Feel:

Local numbing medicine (anesthetic) is used to relax and numb your throat muscles. Until the medicine begins to work, you may feel fluid running down the back of your throat. This may cause you to cough or gag.

Once the medicine takes effect, you may feel pressure or mild tugging as the tube moves through the windpipe (trachea). Although you may feel like you are not able to breathe when the tube is in your  throat, there is no risk of this happening. The medicines given to relax you help with these symptoms and you will likely forget most of the procedure.

When the anesthetic wears off, your throat may be scratchy for several days. After the test, your ability to cough (cough reflex) will return in 1 to 2 hours. You will not be allowed to eat or drink until your cough reflex returns.

Why the Test is Performed:

You may have a bronchoscopy to help your doctor diagnose lung problems. Your doctor will be able to inspect the airways or take a biopsy sample.

Common reasons to perform a bronchoscopy for diagnosis are:

  • Lung growth, lung cancer, lymph node, atelectasis, or other changes seen on an x-ray or other imaging test
  • Suspected interstitial lung disease
  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
  • Possible foreign object in the airway
  • Cough that has lasted more than 3 months without any other explanation
  • Infections in the lungs and bronchi that cannot be diagnosed any other way or need a certain type of diagnosis
  • Inhaled toxic gas or chemical
  • To diagnose a lung rejection after a lung transplant

You may also have a bronchoscopy to treat a lung or airway problem, such as to:

  • Remove fluid or mucus plugs from your airways
  • Remove a foreign object from your airways
  • Widen (dilate) an airway that is blocked or narrowed
  • Drain an abscess
  • Treat cancer using a number of different techniques
  • Wash out an airway (therapeutic lavage)
Normal Results:

Normal cells and fluids are found. No foreign substances or blockages are seen.

What Abnormal Results Mean:

Many disorders can be diagnosed with bronchoscopy, including:

Risks:

Main risks of bronchoscopy are:

  • Bleeding from biopsy sites
  • Infection

There is also a small risk of:

  • Arrhythmias
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Fever
  • Heart attack, in people with existing heart disease
  • Low blood oxygen
  • Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
  • Sore throat

Risks when general anesthesia is used include:

  • Muscle pain
  • Change in blood pressure
  • Slower heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
References:

Kraft M. Approach to the patient with respiratory disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 83.

Kupeli E, Karnac D, Mehta AC. Flexible bronchoscopy. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al., eds. Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 22.

Reynolds HY. Respiratory structure and function: mechanisms and testing. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman’' Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 85.


Review Date: 4/26/2014
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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