Bronchoscopy is a medical procedure involving the direct examination of one’s air passages (the larynx, trachea, and bronchi). A Bronchoscopy is performed via the use of a flexible, lighted tube called a bronchoscope.
The bronchoscope is a piece of equipment that can be directed and moved around the bends in the larynx, trachea, and bronchi. These images are transmitted through the bronchoscope either to the eyepiece or a video screen. An open channel in the scope allows other instruments to be passed through it to take tissue samples (biopsies) or to remove fluid.
Reasons for the Exam
There are many medical reasons for having a bronchoscopy. The following are some reasons for performing a bronchoscopy:
Abnormal findings on a chest x-ray
CT scan abnormal finding
Coughing up blood
Preparation for the Test
You will be instructed to make sure your stomach is empty well before the bronchoscopy to lessen certain risks, such as vomiting during the procedure. This means that you cannot have anything to eat or drink after midnight the evening before the procedure. Specific instructions for preparation are provided beforehand.
Bronchoscopy is usually performed on an outpatient basis. It is performed with the patient lying on their back. The patient is sedated with MAC. The physician will insert the bronchoscope through your mouth and throat or through the nose, then down past the vocal cords to your windpipe and into your lungs. When the tube passes through your vocal cords you may feel the urge to cough or feel some minor discomfort. The feeling is not unusual and is temporary. Occasionally, the examination is done with the aid of x-ray equipment to help your physician locate the exact area from which to take a sample. Pain is unlikely to occur during the procedure.
The benefits of bronchoscopy include:
The physician can see abnormalities, like inflammation or bleeding, through the bronchoscope that don’t show up well on x-rays.
Copious fluid can be removed from lungs.
The physician can insert instruments into the scope to treat abnormalities or remove samples of tissue (biopsy) for further tests.
Alternative testing includes x-ray exams, CAT scans and MRI.
Side Effects and Risks
Bronchoscopy is a safe test that carries little risk. Complications are rare, but if they occur, they may include collapsed lung, bleeding from the sample site, and an allergic reaction to medicines, hoarseness, and slight fever. Only rarely do patients experience other more serious complications. Due to sedation, the patient should not drive or operate machinery for the remainder of the day following the exam.
Bronchoscopy is a simple outpatient exam which can uncover a serious medical problem. Specific diagnoses can be made. Treatment programs can be evaluated, or reassurance can be provided when the exam is normal. It is one of the most useful and simple exams in medicine.