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A bronchoscopy helps to diagnose lung disease. Your doctor may order a bronchoscopy to view your throat and airways. A bronchoscopy can help your doctor diagnose lung problems, such as a growth or tumor.

What is a bronchoscopy?

With a bronchoscopy, your doctor uses a small camera to see inside your lungs to look at the airways anatomy and how well they are working. A scope (thin tube) is passed through your mouth or nose and into your windpipe. This lets your doctor view your airways and take a biopsy of lung tissue of suspicious areas if necessary. A bronchoscopy also may be used to treat a lung problem, such as removing fluid buildup, treating cancer, washing out an airway.

Who needs a bronchoscopy?

There are a number of reasons that a provider may refer you for a bronchoscopy.

  • Long-lasting cough

  • Infection

  • Unexpected image from a chest x-ray or CT scan

  • Odd results seen from some other tissue or imaging tests

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What are the side effects of having a bronchoscopy?

It is not often that people suffer from problems with a bronchoscopy. When there are problems, they are usually not severe and could include any of the following:

  • Light bleeding

  • Damage to the lung or airway

  • Fever

  • Sore throat

  • Muscle aches

  • Small cough

Are there complications with bronchoscopies?

Complications are rare, but if you experience any of the following symptoms let your doctor know right away:

  • Have a fever longer than 3 days

  • Chest pain gets worse

  • Breathing is difficult

  • Coughing up blood

  • A collapsed lung from air in the chest cavity    

How can you prepare for a bronchoscopy?

Your doctor may ask you to do one or several of the following things before your procedure:

  • Don’t eat or drink for 8 hours before the procedure

  • Stop taking blood thinning medications

  • Remove hearing aids, dentures, contact lenses, or glasses

  • Arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure

What can you expect during the bronchoscopy?

On the day of the procedure you can expect these events:

  • An anesthetic will numb your throat and/or nose

  • You may be awake for the procedure

  • The camera is attached to a tube and will be carefully moved down your throat and into your lung passages

  • After the procedure your throat and mouth will regain feeling and you can drink water

What can a bronchoscopy diagnose?

  • Abnormal changes in lung tissue

  • Biopsy lymph nodes near the lungs

  • Shortness of breath

  • View foreign objects in the airway

  • Why patient is coughing up blood

When can you expect results from the bronchoscopy?

The results of a bronchoscopy usually take 1-3 days. Your doctor will discuss these results with you and form a treatment plan if problems with your lungs are found.