Bronchosocpy is a procedure used to inspect your upper airway and inside the bronchi and bronchioles, which are airways in the lungs. During the procedure, your doctor will pass a thin, flexible lighted tube called a bronchoscope through your nose or mouth, down your trachea (windpipe) and into the airways, and the physician can view the appearance of your breathing tubes. The scope can also be utilized to take a biopsy or sample of your lung tissue to view the specimen under the microscope. The tissue and fluid can also be cultured and studied to look for certain types of infections or abnormal cells. Information gathered from a bronchoscopy can help your doctor make a complete diagnosis, and also help gather more information about your problem that will help guide your treatment.

Why It Is Performed 

A bronchoscopy is usually done to find the cause of a lung problem or to treat a known problem.

A tumor, excess mucus, signs of infection, the site of bleeding, or something blocking the airway (like a piece of food or other foreign object) may be seen.

Before your visit

You should discuss all your medications and allergies with your physician before the procedure. It is especially important that you tell your doctor ahead of time if you take any blood thinners on a regular basis. These will have to be held for one week if possible prior to your appointment as there is a risk of bleeding with this test. You may have a blood test before the procedure to check your bleeding time.

Make sure you understand the dietary restrictions before the test. Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding your diet and medication use.

Finally, you need to arrange for someone to drive you home afterward because lingering, subtle effects of the sedation will make it unsafe for you to drive until the next day.

Day of visit

Arrive at the Endoscopy Center at the specific time indicated on your prep instructions and/or appointment documents provided to you by the appointment scheduler. Our staff will greet you and ask you to change into a hospital gown. An intravenous (IV) line will be placed for fluids and sedation. The nurse will then transport you to the procedure room, where you will be prepped for the procedure. This will take approximately 20 to 30 minutes. 

You will receive several different forms and strengths of a numbing medication (Xylocaine) to prevent coughing during the procedure. You will be given the medication through a nebulizer (a machine that turns liquid into mist) that you inhale by breathing in and out of a special mouthpiece (takes about 20 min.). A small cotton swab will be used to apply Xylocaine jelly inside your nostrils. And, when inserting the bronchoscope, the physician will administer liquid Xylocaine through the bronchoscope into your airway, to prevent irritation and coughing.

The doctor will inspect your throat, larynx (voice box), and upper and lower airways of both lungs. The procedure should take 20 to 30 minutes. Recovery should take approximately 30 minutes. You should not drive or smoke for 24 hours after the procedure.

After the visit

You will not be able to eat or drink anything right after the procedure because of the numbing medicine given, but once that wears off (1 to 2 hours) your doctor will let you know what you can eat or drink.  

There is a risk of complications which may include sore throat, hoarseness, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. There is also risk of minor bleeding or developing fever or pneumonia. A rare, but more serious risk of this procedure is a pneumothorax (collapsed lung). This causes air to collect in the space around the lung and is easily treated. Your doctor may order a chest X-ray to be done following the procedure to check for this problem.

Recovery and Recuperation 

Your doctor will tell you when you can return to normal activities, such as driving, working and exercising. Call your doctor right away if you:

  • Develop a fever
  • Have chest pain
  • Have trouble breathing
  • Cough up more than a few tablespoons of blood

Test Results 

Your doctor will discuss his findings with you once in recovery before you are discharged. If tissue or fluid samples were taken, they will be sent to a laboratory for testing. The time frame it will take for you to receive results will be determined by your situation. If a tissue or fluid sample was collected, it may take one to two weeks for the pathologist to return your results to your physician. Your physician will contact you to confirm the results as soon as they are available. Ask your doctor when you can expect to receive your results.