• Bronchoscopy, Diagnostic


    Bronchoscopy is the visual examination of the air passages leading into the lungs. The exam is done with a bronchoscope, a long, thin tube with a camera on the tip. The tube may be flexible or rigid, depending on why it is being done.
    Respiratory Pathway
    Resp pathway with sinus
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Reasons for Procedure

    Bronchoscopy is most often done for the following reasons:
    • Diagnose cancer, a lung disease, or an infection
    • Examine for obstructions and abnormal secretions
    • Obtain a tissue sample for examination under a microscope—biopsy
    • Obtain a secretion sample
    • Investigate the source of a persistent cough or blood that is being coughed up
    • Check for a foreign object that may have accidentally been inhaled rather than swallowed

    Possible Complications

    Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
    • Reaction to anesthesia
    • Bleeding
    • Collapsed lung
    • Irregular heart rate
    • Infection
    • Sore and swollen throat
    Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as:

    What to Expect

    Prior to Procedure

    Your doctor may do some or all of the following:
    Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
    Leading up to your procedure:
    • Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.
    • The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight unless otherwise instructed.


    Local anesthetic will be given to numb the throat and you will have sedation. These will also help to prevent coughing and gagging. Sometimes, a bronchoscopy is done under general anesthesia. In this case, you will be asleep.

    Description of the Procedure

    The bronchoscope is a long, thin tube. It will be inserted through the nose or mouth. The scope will be passed down the throat and into the lungs.
    The scope sends an image of the lung tissue to a monitor. The images and the scope may be used to remove a small tissue sample. If a foreign body is present, it may be removed through the scope. If a lavage is planned, a water solution may be used to wash an area. The solution is then removed and sent to a lab for examination.

    Immediately After Procedure

    The removed tissue or secretions will be sent to a lab for examination.

    How Long Will It Take?

    Less than 1 hour

    How Much Will It Hurt?

    Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. You may feel a tugging sensation when the doctor removes a tissue sample. You may also have some breathing difficulty or shortness of breath during the procedure.
    Expect some soreness in your throat and hoarseness for a few days after the procedure. Any discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.

    Post-procedure Care

    At the Care Center
    Right after the procedure, the staff may:
    • Take an x-ray of your lungs.
    • Encourage you to sip water. You will gradually progress to solid foods.
    At Home
    When you return home, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions. If you had to stop medications before the procedure, ask your doctor when you can start again.
    You may be given a report after the sedative wears off and you are alert. It may take a few days to receive results from a biopsy. It may take up to 6 weeks for findings from a tuberculosis test. Ask your doctor when to expect your results.

    Call Your Doctor

    It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
    • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
    • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
    • Coughing up more than a teaspoon of blood
    • Severe nausea or vomiting
    • Increased or unusual stridor, which is a noisy sound that is heard when breathing
    • Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
    If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


    American Lung Association http://www.lung.org

    American Thoracic Society http://www.thoracic.org


    The Lung Association http://www.lung.ca

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca


    Explore bronchoscopy. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/bron. Updated February 8, 2012. Accessed August 5, 2015.

    Fiberoptic bronchoscopy. American Thoracic Society website. Available at: http://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/fiberoptic-bronchoscopy.pdf. Accessed August 5, 2015.

    Lung cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 29, 2014. Accessed September 9, 2014.

    6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.