Last Updated 05/07/2020
Authors:Samantha D’Annunzio, MD; John Egan, MD, FCCP; Shaheen Islam, MBBS, MPH, FCCP; Adriel Malavé, MD; Michael E. Nelson, MD, FCCP; Jay I. Peters, MD, FCCP; Victor Test, MD, FCCP
Bronchoscopy is a test done to look at your airways and lungs. Your health care provider uses a long, flexible instrument attached to a camera, called a bronchoscope, to capture images the provider looks at on a monitor. The bronchoscope is inserted through your mouth or nose. The provider will visually look at your airways and collect samples, or biopsies, if needed.
Why do I need a Bronchoscopy?
If you have one of the following conditions, your provider may order a bronchoscopy:
- Lung infections that don’t get better or keep coming back
- Coughing up blood (called hemoptysis)
- An abnormal chest X-ray
- A lung mass or lump
- Trouble breathing
How to get ready
To prepare for your bronchoscopy, don’t eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the bronchoscopy. Be sure to ask your health care provider if you should take your daily medications before the test. Do not take any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen sodium (Aleve), for 1 week before the procedure. If you take aspirin or a blood thinner, discuss those medications with your provider.
Bronchoscopy Patient Guide
What to expect
Bronchoscopy is an outpatient procedure. That means you go home the same day as your test. However, you will receive anesthesia, so you will need someone to drive you home after the test.
When you arrive for your bronchoscopy, you meet the team of doctors and nurses who will be present during your procedure. The doctor will go over the procedure, including its risks and benefits, with you. You’ll receive intravenous (IV) medications during the procedure. If you receive general anesthesia to go completely to sleep, you will meet the anesthesia team, as well.
During the procedure, the team closely monitors your vital signs. You will be given oxygen. The team may also give you numbing medication in your mouth and nose.
A simple bronchoscopy may take 30 to 45 minutes. More advanced bronchoscopies (such as endobronchial ultrasound [EBUS] or navigational bronchoscopy) may take up to 1.5 hours. You may require an X-ray in the recovery area after your procedure.
After the procedure, you will likely recover in the postanesthesia care unit (PACU).
After the test, it is normal to cough. You may even cough up blood, which is also normal. A member of your health care team will send you home when it is safe to do so.
Understanding the results
It may take a few days to get the rest results of your bronchoscopy. Sometimes, there are results immediately available after the bronchoscopy that your doctor can tell you about. For the full results of your test, you may need to make a follow-up appointment with your provider—typically within a week of your test.
What are the risks?
Your doctor will watch you carefully during the procedure. However, there are some risks. You may need extra oxygen to help you breathe. It is normal to cough up a small amount of blood after the procedure. Contact your health care provider if you cough up blood after you go home. A low-grade fever the night of the procedure is also normal. Call your health care provider if:
- Your fever doesn’t go away.
- You cough up mucus or clots of blood.
- You have chills.
- You have shortness of breath.
If your doctor took biopsies during the bronchoscopy, there is a chance of an air leak in your lung. This is an uncommon but real risk of the procedure. A chest X-ray after the procedure can look for such a leak before you go home. If you have a small air leak, you may have to stay in the hospital for monitoring. If you have shortness of breath or chest pain, the doctor may need to put in a chest tube to treat the air leak.