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What is Bronchoscopy?

Bronchoscopy is a minimal invasive procedure used to view inside the airways and to diagnose and cure some lung diseases. The procedure involves the use of a bronchoscope, which is a flexible, thin tube with a light and tiny camera. Bronchoscopy is usually done by a pulmonologist.

Types of Bronchoscope

The 2 types of bronchoscope are:

  • Rigid bronchoscope: It is a straight tube that can be used to view and treat conditions within the larger airways or bronchi.
  • Flexible bronchoscope: It is a more commonly used bendable tube to look for and repair damage in the smaller airways (bronchioles).

Indications for Bronchoscopy

Some of the most common indications for bronchoscopy include:

  • To identify lung diseases causing sudden and severe shortness of breath or breathing difficulty
  • To visualise and clear blockages in your airways
  • To evaluate lymph nodes near your lungs
  • To collect samples of mucus or tissue from your affected lungs
  • To insert a stent (a small tube) in the airway to keep it open and prevent narrowing or collapsing

Preparations for Bronchoscopy

The preparation for bronchoscopy may include:

  • Fasting for a certain period of time before the procedure
  • Avoiding taking certain medications such as blood thinners and anti-coagulants etc
  • Arranging for someone to drive you home following the procedure
  • An explanation about the procedure in detail by your provider and obtaining informed consent

Procedure of Bronchoscopy

The bronchoscopy procedure may typically take 30 minutes to a couple of hours. It is usually performed in a hospital setting as an outpatient procedure.

The following are the steps involved during a bronchoscopy:

  • You will lie down on a bed or table with your head in a propped up position.
  • Your healthcare provider inserts an IV line for the administration of medicines and an appropriate sedative will be administered as needed. You vitals will be monitored throughout the procedure.
  • Your provider may also apply a numbing spray to your mouth, nose and throat to avoid irritation.
  • Then your provider inserts the bronchoscope through your nose or mouth and down into your windpipe to your lungs to look for abnormalities.
  • Instruments are passed through the bronchoscope and guided by X-ray imaging to obtain tissue and fluid samples or to perform other procedures.
  • Your airway will then be washed with a saline solution.
  • A rigid bronchoscopy is performed under general anesthesia. Your neck is extended and the bronchoscope is gently inserted through your mouth and windpipe. Biopsy samples are obtained and the airway is washed with saline.

Follow up care after Bronchoscopy

  • Following the bronchoscopy procedure, you can go home within a few hours after you are observed with stable breathing and swallowing actions.
  • You may feel numbness in your throat for a couple of hours that will wear off.
  • You may also get a sore throat, cough or hoarseness after the procedure for the next 24 hours.
  • If you experience any of the following symptoms, such as chest pain, difficulty in breathing, persistent fever, cough or coughing up blood then you must seek immediate health care to avoid complications.

Complications of Bronchoscopy

Bronchoscopy is a very safe procedure, but there can also be a few complications such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Lung collapse
  • Unusual airway obstruction
  • Bronchial perforation
  • Bronchospasm

Contraindications of Bronchoscopy

Bronchoscopy may be contraindicated in the following conditions:

  • Acute respiratory failure with hypercapnia unless the patient is intubated and ventilated
  • Large tracheal obstruction
  • Serious dysrhythmias
  • Recent myocardial infarction
  • Unstable Angina