What Is Bronchoscopy?
Bronchoscopy is a technique used to look at your air passages with a small camera that is located at the end of a flexible tube. This connects to a video screen for the doctors to view and take photos of your air passages. The tube also has a small channel to collect tissue samples from your lung that can be used in disease diagnosis. It is typically done on an outpatient basis, meaning that you can go home the same day of the procedure. Bronchoscopy is done under "conscious" sedation. You continue to breathe on your own but do not feel the discomfort of having the tube in your mouth or nose.
How to Prepare
You will not be able to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the bronchoscopy. However, your doctor may allow you to take some of your medications. Please be sure to ask your physician how to handle your daily medications prior to the procedure.
The sedative medicine used can remain in your body for several hours after completion of the procedure. You may need someone to take you home, since you will not be allowed to drive after being discharged.
What to Expect?
The doctor will explain the technique and potential risks prior to obtaining your signed consent. This is the time to ask any specific questions that you may have.
A nurse will go over your medical history and medication use. An intravenous line (IV) will be placed to deliver any medicines during the procedure. Monitors will be placed to continually check your blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen level during the procedure. An oxygen mask or nasal tubing will also be placed to provide you with additional oxygen.
You will be given sedative medicines and potentially numbing gels or sprays prior to the procedure.
After you are sedated, the doctor will insert the bronchoscope through your mouth or nose into the lung. If there are signs of discomfort, a member of the team will administer additional medications until you are comfortable. The bronchoscopy usually takes about 30-45 minutes.
Understanding the Results
After the procedure, your doctor may discuss the findings of the bronchoscopy and future healthcare plans with you. However, because of the effect of the sedation medications, you may not remember all the details. It is always a recommended to have the doctor speak to your family member or healthcare advocate regarding results and any treatment plan.
If any biopsy or bronchial washing sample was collected, some of the results may be available in about two-four days. Other results could take a week or longer before the final report.
What are the Risks Associated with Bronchoscopy?
Your blood oxygen level may become low during the procedure because of sedation or the scope being in your air passages. The team will administer additional oxygen during the procedure. Because the bronchoscope is inserted through your vocal cords, you may have a cough during and after the procedure. A sore throat after the procedure is common and may be relieved with just cough drops.
This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.
Approved by Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed May 31, 2017.