A bronchoscopy is a diagnostic examination of the lungs and the air passages leading to them. Bronchoscopy is used to diagnose and treat pulmonary disorders. Bronchoscopy is not painful and involves little risk of complication.

A bronchoscopy is a valuable aid that allows the physician to obtain a visual picture of the airways and lungs to arrive at a diagnosis immediately. In other cases, the test allows the physician to take a biopsy or tissue sample that will be examined in a lab.

Image Courtesy of A.D.A.M.

Image Courtesy of A.D.A.M.

Bronschoscopy is divided into two types:

  • Flexible Bronchoscopy: A thin, long tube is utilized to view your airway. No anesthesia is required and is most often used to view smaller airways or to perform a biopsy.
  • Rigid Bronchoscopy: A straight, hollow tube is used to remove large tissue samples for biopsy or to clear the airways of obtrusive objects. This type requires the patient be placed under anesthesia.

Why a Bronchoscopy?

During the procedure, they will examine your throat, larynx, trachea and lower airways in order to pinpoint the cause of airway problems such as a chronic cough or difficulty breathing.

Your doctor may conduct a bronchoscopy exam to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary blockages or obstructions, specific infections of the lungs and lung cancer.

What to Expect

Bronchoscopy usually requires that your stomach be empty. Your doctor will likely ask you to fast for at least eight hours prior to your exam. Once you’ve arrived for your test, you’ll be given medication as a relaxant. In addition, your throat will be sprayed with numbing agent to diminish your gag reflex. In some cases, the bronchoscopy may be done under general anesthesia.

The procedure is painless; however, you may experience some discomfort as well as some tugging or pinching if a biopsy is taken.

The procedure takes about one hour to complete. You will likely be asked to spend another hour in recovery as your medication wears off. Furthermore, you will be asked to refrain from eating and drinking for several hours as well as driving for at least 8 hours.

Once testing is complete, your doctor may have an immediate diagnosis or you may have to wait 48-72 hours for specimens to return from the lab.

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