Bronchoscopy is a test to view the airways and diagnose lung disease. It may also be used during the treatment of some lung conditions.
Fiberoptic bronchoscopy; Lung cancer - bronchoscopy; Pneumonia - bronchoscopy; Chronic lung disease - bronchoscopy
How the Test is Performed
A bronchoscope is a device used to see the inside of the airways and lungs. The scope can be flexible or rigid. A flexible scope is almost always used. It is a tube less than a half inch (1 centimeter) wide and about 2 feet (60 centimeters) long. In rare cases, a rigid bronchoscope is used.
The scope is passed through your mouth or nose through your windpipe (trachea) and into your lungs. Going through the nose is a good way to look at the upper airways. Going through the mouth allows your health care provider to use a larger bronchoscope. If a flexible bronchoscope is used, you will probably be awake but sedated. During the procedure:
- You will likely get medicines through a vein (IV, or intravenously) to help you relax. Or you may be asleep under general anesthesia, especially if a rigid scope is used.
- A numbing drug (anesthetic) will be sprayed in your mouth and throat. If bronchoscopy is done through your nose, numbing jelly will be placed in the nostril the tube goes through.
- The scope is gently inserted. It will likely make you cough at first. The coughing will stop as the numbing drug begins to work.
- Your provider may send saline solution through the tube. This washes the lungs and allows your provider to collect samples of lung cells, fluids, and other materials inside the air sacs. This part of the procedure is called a lavage.
- Sometimes, tiny brushes, needles, or forceps may be passed through the bronchoscope to take very small tissue samples (biopsies) from your lungs.
- Your provider can also place a stent in your airway or view your lungs with ultrasound during the procedure. A stent is a small tube-like medical device. Ultrasound is a painless imaging method that allows your provider to see inside your body.
- Sometimes ultrasound is used to see the lymph nodes and tissues around your airways.