Bronchoscopy is a diagnostic test that uses a thin tube with a light source and camera attached at its tip (endoscope) to help your doctor inspect the respiratory tract (air passage) for problems. It is used to diagnose problems in the lower respiratory track and lungs, including the vocal cords, wind pipe, and the large and small airways reaching the lungs (bronchi and bronchioles).
Bronchoscopy is indicated to diagnose lung diseases such as lung cancer, interstitial lung disease (inflammation and damage of lung tissues), inhaled toxic gas or chemical, and lung rejection after lung transplantation. This procedure can also be used to remove a foreign object, fluid or mucous from your airways or wash an airway.
You will be instructed not to eat food 6 to 12 hours prior to the procedures. The procedures are performed under local anaesthesia.
Bronchoscopy can be performed in two ways:
- Flexible bronchoscopy: In this procedure, your doctor will insert a thin flexible tube with a small camera attached called a bronchoscope into your nose or mouth and pass it down through your throat into the airways to detect any abnormality.
- Rigid bronchoscopy: In a rigid bronchoscopy, a wider, non-flexible scope capable of visualizing only the larger airways, is used to detect any abnormalities. This procedure will be performed under general anaesthesia in the operating room.
Following the procedure, you will be discharged home on the same day or may be required to stay overnight at the hospital. Your throat may be sore and you may find it difficult to swallow for a few days, but you will be able to resume your usual diet and daily activities.
Risks and Complications
Bronchoscopy is generally a safe technique, but like all procedures, may be associated with some risks and complications.
The major risks include bleeding or infections. Some of the other risks are fever, low blood oxygen, sore throat, heart attack (in patients with pre-existing heart disease), and breathing difficulties.