What is Bronchoscopy?
Bronchoscopy is a way to look at the air passages in your lungs with a small camera. It can also collect samples of mucus or lung tissue.
The bronchoscope is long, flexible, and looks like a tube. It is put in your nose or mouth. It connects to a video screen for the doctors to view and take photos. You don’t need to stay in the hospital for a bronchoscopy. You can go home a few hours after the test.
Why do I need a Bronchoscopy?
You might need a bronchoscopy if you have:
- Lots of lung infections
- Cough up blood
- Something that doesn’t look normal on a chest X-ray or scan
- Trouble breathing
How to Get Ready
You cannot eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the bronchoscopy. Be sure to ask your doctor if you can still take your daily medicine before the test. You should not take any Advil, Motrin or similar drugs for 1 week before the procedure. If you take Aspirin or any blood thinners, tell your doctor.
What to Expect
When you arrive for your bronchoscopy, you will meet the team of doctors and nurses who will be helping with your test. The doctor will tell you what will happen and possible risks. You will need to sign a form saying you understand what the doctor told you. The nurse will talk to you about your medical history and what drugs you take. An intravenous line (IV) will be put in your arm so that you get the medicine you need during the procedure. The IV will also give you a drug to make you drowsy (anesthesia). If you are receiving general anesthesia to go completely to sleep, you will meet the anesthesia team.
During the procedure, the team will:
- Check your blood pressure, heart rate, and how well you are breathing
- Give you oxygen if you need help breathing
- Make your mouth and nose numb so that you don’t feel like gagging during the test
- Give you the drugs to make you drowsy
Because you may be sleepy after the test, you need someone to drive you home.
After you are drowsy or asleep, the doctor will put the bronchoscope through your mouth or nose. You will probably cough. That is normal.
- A simple bronchoscopy usually takes about 30-45 minutes.
- A more advanced bronchoscopic test may take an hour to do. You will be asleep for this test.
- If you need an endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) or navigational bronchoscopy to see if you have lung cancer or another lung disease, the test may take 90 minutes.
After the procedure you will be looked after by the team. They may take an X-ray to make sure you don’t have an air leak in your lung (pneumothorax). It is normal to have a cough and you may even cough up a little blood after the procedure.
Understanding the Results
When you wake up and before you go home, your doctor will tell you when to start taking your medicine again. He may tell you some of the test results. Because you might still be drowsy, you might not remember everything he tells you. It is a good idea for the doctor to also talk to the person who is taking you home.
Some of the test results might not be available right away. Your doctor will let you know when all of them are ready.
What are the risks associated with Bronchoscopy?
Your doctor will watch you carefully during the procedure, but there are some risks. You may need additional oxygen to help you breathe. This is because of the IV medicines and the bronchoscope.
It is normal to cough up a little blood after the procedure. If you still cough up blood after you go home, you should call your doctor.
You may also have a fever, but it shouldn’t last long. Call your doctor if:
- Your fever doesn’t go away
- You cough with mucus
- You have chills
- You have shortness of breath
You might get an air leak in your lung (pneumothorax). A chest X-ray can look for that. If you have a small one, you might have to stay in the hospital. If you have shortness of breath or chest pain, the doctor may need to put in a small chest tube to help the air passages in your lung. You will have to stay in the hospital for this too.
Looking for more information? Visit our advanced guide on bronchoscopy here
Samantha D’Annunzio, MD
John Egan, MD, FCCP
University of Illinois – Chicago
Shaheen Islam, MBBS, MPH, FCCP
Ohio State University
Adriel Malavé, MD
UT Health Science Center at San Antonio
Michael E. Nelson, MD, FCCP
Shawnee Mission Pulmonary Consultants
Jay I Peters, MD, FCCP
South Texas Veterans Health Care System
Duke University Hosptial
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