What is a bronchoscopy?
Bronchosocpy (bron-KOS-ko-pee) is an endoscopic procedure used to look inside the bronchi and bronchioles, which are the lungs’ airways. During the procedure, your doctor will pass a thin, flexible lighted tube called a bronchoscope through your nose or mouth, down your throat, and into the airways. If you have a breathing tube or tracheostomy the scope can be passed through it into your airways.
You will be given sedation by the anesthesia department during this procedure to make you relaxed and sleepy. When you go to the Endoscopy department, you will likely be given a gargle solution of mouthwash and a local anesthetic to numb your throat. A spray can be used if you have difficulty gargling.
There is a light and small camera at the tip of the bronchoscope so that the doctor can see your windpipe and airways. You will also be given medicines and have your airways flushed with saline (salt water) through the scope directly into your airways. Tissue biopsies, brushings, and mucus secretions can be collected through the scope and sent to the laboratory for analysis.
The doctor may or may not use special xray equipment during your procedure.
A bronchoscopy is usually done to find the cause of a lung problem or to treat a known problem. A tumor, excess mucus, signs of infection, the site of bleeding, or something blocking the airway (like a piece of food or other foreign object) may be seen. A stent (or small tube that holds the airway open) may be placed if necessary and excess mucus can be washed and suctioned out of the lungs to make breathing easier and more efficient.
Before the procedure
It is especially important that you tell your doctor ahead of time if you take any blood thinners on a regular basis. These will have to be held for one week prior to your appointment as there is a risk of bleeding with this test. You may have a blood test before the procedure to check your bleeding time.
After the procedure
You will not be able to eat or drink anything right after the procedure because of the numbing medicine given, but once that wears off (1-2 hours) your doctor will let you know what you can eat/drink. You may have a sore throat or be hoarse. There is a risk of minor bleeding or developing fever or pneumonia. A rare, but more serious, risk of this procedure is a pneumothorax (collapsed lung). This causes air to collect in the space around the lung which is easily treated. Your doctor may order a chest xray to be done following the procedure to check for this problem.
Recovery and recuperation
Your doctor will tell you when you can return to normal activities, such as driving, working and exercising. Call your doctor right away if you:
- Develop a fever
- Have chest pain
- Have trouble breathing
- Cough up more than a few tablespoons of blood