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Lung Disorders Special Report

Bronchoscopy: Taking a Closer Look

To help diagnose your lung disorder, your doctor may ask you to have a bronchoscopy -- an examination that allows your physician to view the airways of your lungs and take samples of mucus or tissue from them. Here’s what you should expect …

During a bronchoscopy, a thin, tube-like instrument called a bronchoscope is inserted through your nose or mouth and down into the air passages of your lungs. The tube has a minicamera at its tip that transmits pictures back to a video screen. The instrument also has a passageway that lets the doctor remove mucus and cell samples from the lining of the lung and collect a small sample of tissue with a miniature cutting device. Bronchoscopy can take from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on what procedures the doctor needs to perform.

Bronchoscopy is a safe test, and serious complications are rare. Minor complications that can occur include discomfort while the bronchoscope is being passed through your nose, throat, and air passages and a tickling feeling that may cause you to cough. To reduce this discomfort, the doctor will spray a local anesthetic into your nose or throat to numb the area. Sedatives given before and during the procedure also help reduce any discomfort.

Your doctor may ask you to have a bronchoscopy for one of the following reasons:


  • to follow up on an abnormal chest x-ray
  • to find the cause of certain infections such as tuberculosis, AIDS-related pneumonias, or pneumonia following organ transplantation
  • to investigate and remove a blockage in the airways
  • to find out the cause of bleeding in the lung
  • to determine the cause of a chronic cough


Preparing for a Bronchoscopy. Your stomach must be empty before the bronchoscopy to lessen risks, such as vomiting during the procedure. You will be told not to eat or drink anything (not even water) for six hours before your appointment. If you are taking any type of medication, ask your doctor whether you need to stop taking it beforehand.

Before the bronchoscopy begins, you will be given a small amount of sedative intravenously and a local anesthetic for your nose and/or throat to help prevent coughing and gagging. If it is needed, you may receive additional sedation through the needle in your vein. You will also be connected to a heart and blood pressure monitor to check your vital signs during the procedure.

What Is the Recovery Time? Recovery times vary from person to person. You will be observed until you are alert enough to leave. It is unlikely that you will have any problems after the bronchoscopy. However, if you feel chest pain or increased shortness of breath, develop a fever, or cough up large amounts of blood once you leave the hospital, call your doctor right away. It is normal to cough up a small amount of blood for one or two days after the procedure.

When Do I Get the Results? Your doctor can tell you right away how your airways look. You may get laboratory results within one to four days, but other results can take longer, depending on what was performed during the bronchoscopy.

Posted in Lung Disorders on September 9, 2010


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