Bronchoscopy Procedures

A bronchoscope is a device used to see the inside of the airways and lungs. A bronchoscopy procedure is performed to diagnose and treat different lung conditions.

How Bronchoscopy Is Performed

The scope is passed through your mouth or nose, through your windpipe (trachea), and then into your lungs. Going through the nose is a good way to look at the upper airways. The mouth method allows the doctor to use a larger bronchoscope.

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The doctor will spray a numbing drug in your mouth and throat. If the bronchoscopy is done through the nose, numbing jelly will be placed on one nostril. Inserting the bronchoscope will make you cough at first. The coughing will stop as the numbing drug begins to work. When the area feels thick, it is numb enough. You'll probably get drugs through a vein to help you relax. Only rarely will you be asleep under general anesthesia.

Once you are numb, the tube will be inserted into the lungs.

The doctor may send saline solution through the tube. This washes the lungs — a technique called lavage — and allows the doctor to collect samples of lung cells, fluids and other materials inside the air sacs.

Sometimes, tiny brushes, needles or forceps may be passed through the bronchoscope and used to take very small tissue samples (biopsies) from your lungs.

The doctor can also place a stent in the airway or view the lungs with ultrasound during this procedure.

Once the Bronchoscopy Procedure Is Complete

When the anesthetic wears off, your throat may be scratchy for several days. After the test, the cough reflex will return in one to two hours. You won't be allowed to eat or drink until your cough reflex returns.