Thumbnail image of: Respiratory System: Illustration


What is a bronchoscopy?

A bronchoscopy is a procedure in which your healthcare provider examines the airways of your lungs with a thin, flexible, lighted tube called a bronchoscope. It may be performed in your hospital room or in a procedure room in the hospital. This procedure may be done because:

  • You have an irritation, growth, or scar tissue in part of your airways or lungs.
  • There may be an inherited deformity in your lungs.
  • There may be a foreign body, such as a peanut or coin, in your lungs.
  • You need your airways checked for signs of cancer.
  • You have a cough for more than 3 months or you are coughing up blood.
  • You need to have a sample of mucus taken to test for an infection.
  • You need to have a small sample of lung tissue (biopsy) taken for lab tests.

How is a bronchoscopy done?

Before the bronchoscopy:

  • Your healthcare provider will ask you to sign a consent form for a bronchoscopy. The consent form will state the reason you are having the test, what happens during the test, and what you may expect afterward.
  • Your provider may have you prepare for the bronchoscopy by not eating or drinking anything for several hours before the test.
  • Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicines.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are taking any medicines, including nonprescription drugs, herbal remedies, or illegal drugs (if any).
  • You will have a needle inserted into a vein in your hand or arm. This will allow medicine to be given into your blood system and to give you fluids.

During the bronchoscopy:

  • You may be given a sedative, which will help you to relax. This is usually given in your vein (IV).
  • A local anesthetic will be sprayed into your nose and mouth to prevent gagging when the bronchoscopy tube is passed through your mouth.
  • In some cases, you may receive a general anesthetic to relax your muscles, put you to sleep, and prevent you from feeling pain.
  • Your blood oxygen level will be monitored by a sensor that is attached to your finger or earlobe.
  • You may receive oxygen through a small tube placed under your nose or through a mask placed over your face.
  • A cardiac (heart) monitor may be used to keep track of your heart’s rate and rhythm.
  • Your healthcare provider will pass a bronchoscope into your mouth and throat, down the windpipe, and into the airways.
  • If your provider finds cancer cells, growths, sores, or other unhealthy tissue, he or she may remove them or take a biopsy. If a foreign body is found, it is usually removed.

After the bronchoscopy:

  • You may stay in the hospital for a few hours or several days to recover, depending on your condition and your test results.
  • If you stay in the hospital after your test:
    • You will be checked often by nursing staff.
    • Your blood oxygen level may be monitored by a sensor that is attached to your finger or earlobe.
  • You may feel some soreness in your neck and throat. The soreness may last a few days after the procedure.
  • You may be hoarse or have a cough.

What can I do to help?

  • You will need to tell your healthcare team if you have new or worsening:
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath
    • Wheezing
    • Severe hoarseness
    • Trouble swallowing
    • Coughing up blood
    • Chest pain

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:

  • Swelling of your lips, tongue or throat
  • Trouble breathing

What does the result mean?

This test is only one part of a larger picture that includes your medical history and current health. Your provider will discuss with you any need for treatment, based on what is seen with the bronchoscope. In some cases, your provider may be able to treat your condition during the bronchoscopy. If your provider is unable to treat your condition during the bronchoscopy, a treatment plan will be made for additional care.

If your results are not normal, ask your healthcare provider:

  • If you need additional tests
  • If or when you need to be tested again
  • If you need treatment and what your treatment choices are
  • If you need to make any lifestyle changes to keep your airway healthy
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-04-30
Last reviewed: 2014-04-14
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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