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Bronchoscopy is a procedure to look directly at the airways in the lungs using a thin, lighted tube (bronchoscope). The bronchoscope is put in the nose or mouth. It is moved down the throat and windpipe (trachea), and into the airways. A healthcare provider can then see the voice box (larynx), trachea, large airways to the lungs (bronchi), and smaller branches of the bronchi (bronchioles).



The types of procedures performed by our providers include:

  • Flexible bronchoscopy is the most common type of bronchoscopy. It uses a bendable tube that's small enough to reach the tiniest bronchioles in your lungs.

  • Rigid bronchoscopy uses a wider, straight tube that cannot bend. It can remove larger objects from your upper airway, take larger tissue samples or insert airway stents.

  • Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) combines bronchoscopy and ultrasound imaging. It lets your doctor take detailed pictures of the tissue and lymph nodes in and around your lungs.

  • Electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy (navigational) uses software much like the GPS system in your car or phone. It helps doctors find the location of a hard-to-reach lung tumor, then guide a bronchoscope directly to it.


Bronchoscopy has many uses, including:

  • Inserting airway stents to open your narrowed trachea or bronchial tube. Your doctor places a hollow device (stent) inside the compressed part of your airway. The stent temporarily or permanently props it open.

  • Performing balloon bronchoplasty (dilation) to widen your trachea or bronchial tube. Using a bronchoscope, your doctor places a tiny balloon in the narrowed part of your airway. When he or she inflates the balloon, your airway expands.

  • Performing other treatments. These include removing a blockage from your airway, spraying medication into a lung or sucking out excess mucus.

  • Finding out why you have unusual symptoms, such as chronic cough.

  • Diagnosing medical problems including lung cancer and infections.

  • Taking tissue samples (biopsies) to test for cancer.

  • Performing bronchoalveolar lavage to take samples from your bronchioles. Your doctor sprays liquid through the bronchoscope to “wash” the bronchiole. The liquid, which now contains cells from inside your bronchiole, is sucked out and analyzed.


Prior to the procedure, an IV will be inserted into your hand and a local anesthetic will be sprayed in your nose and throat.  Once the airways are adequately numbed, and the gag reflex is absent, you will receive intravenous sedating medications that will help you relax.  The bronchoscope is then inserted through your nose or mouth, the airways are examined and samples are obtained.


While some patients may experience coughing during the procedure, there is no pain associated with bronchoscopy.  Once the procedure is completed (typically 30-60 minutes), you will remain under observation for a couple of hours while the effects of the medications wear off. You will then be discharged home. You may experience some fatigue for the remainder of the day.


Bronchoscopy is typically well tolerated and has a very low incidence of complications.  Rarely, patients may have an unusual reaction to one of the medications that is used; as these medications are short-acting, this usually resolves quickly.  Occasionally patients may develop a transient fever the night of the procedure.


It is not uncommon for patients to cough up a small amount of blood for a day or so after the procedure.  Please notify us if you continue to cough up blood over several days, cough up large amounts of blood, or develop chest pain, shortness of breath, or a fever greater than 101 degrees.


If biopsies of the lung were performed during your procedure, this may be complicated by bleeding or a pneumothorax (collapse of the lung).  Bleeding in the lungs is rarely severe enough to cause a serious problem.  If a pneumothorax occurs, and the collapse is minor, it typically will resolve on its own.  For a larger collapse, a chest tube will need to be placed to re-expand the lung, and you will need to be hospitalized.


An appointment will be made for a follow-up appointment to discuss the findings of your bronchoscopy.  The appointment may need to be made for a week or two after if samples were taken so that the samples can be analyzed.

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