Picture of the lungs.
The bronchoscope (which is a long thin black tube, with a light on the end, is passed through the windpipe into the larger air tubes called bronchi. It is possible to sample the lining of the bronchi (we call these tiny sample biopsies). It is also possible to gently brush the lining of the bronchi to get cells, and also to wash the lining of the bronchi - we call these samples (rather unimaginatively) brushings and washings.
Looking into the lungs using a bronchoscope.
We are able to take samples from within the lungs by passing a fine wire down the bronchoscope, as you can see.
Patient information about bronchoscopy
Please follow these instructions on the day that you are coming into hospital:
Please do not eat or drink after a light breakfast and not after 8am.
No jewellery (including body piercings) should be worn. You can wear your wedding ring if you wish, but this may be taped over for safety reasons.
If you wear contact lenses, please bring storage boxes and solution as you will have to take out your lenses.
Do not bring any valuables with you to hospital.
Please bring a dressing gown, nightdress / pyjamas, slippers, wash bag and something to read.
Only bring small amounts of money into hospital.
Do not wear any make-up or nail polish.
Bring all your current medication with you.
If you can’t attend please let us know as soon as possible by calling:
Bronchoscopy team: 01224 - 551982
What is a bronchoscopy?
A bronchoscopy is an examination of the major air passages of the lungs.
It is done so that your chest doctor can look inside your lungs.
The doctor will insert a bronchoscope, a flexible tube about the width of a pencil with a bright light at the end, through your mouth (or occasionally your nose) and into your windpipe (trachea).
Bronchoscopy is performed under sedation. This means that you are given drugs which make you drowsy so that you may not remember anything about the procedure.
What is a bronchoscopy for?
There are many reasons for having a bronchoscopy. These include:
Coughing up blood -to find the source and cause
A persistent cough - to find the source and cause
An abnormal chest X-ray
How is bronchoscopy performed?
The procedure is performed in a surgical theatre.
A small plastic needle is inserted into a vein so that additional medications can be given.
You will be made comfortable on a couch in either a lying or a sitting position.
We will connect you to a heart and blood pressure monitor.
You will be given extra oxygen through a soft plastic tube placed just inside your nostril during the examination.
At this point, sedative medication may be given through your plastic needle.
A mouth guard is placed in your mouth.
The bronchoscopy tube then goes into your mouth, throat, through your vocal cords and into your windpipe and lung.
When it goes through your vocal cords, you may feel like you can’t catch your breath. This feeling is not unusual and is temporary. Your doctor will stop to let you catch your breath before continuing the examination.
During the procedure, local anaesthetic will be given through the bronchoscopy tube to help relieve any coughing. You can help by taking slow, shallow breaths through your mouth. Try not to talk while the tube is in your lungs. Talking can make you hoarse or give you a sore throat after the procedure.
The procedure usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes to allow the doctor to examine the areas carefully. A biopsy (sample) is often taken from the inside of the lungs. This involves removing a small piece of tissue from a particular area.
You may feel pressure or tugging when the biopsy specimens are taken. However, you are not likely to have any pain. When the examination is finished the bronchoscope is removed quickly and easily, causing no discomfort.
How safe is bronchoscopy?
Bronchoscopy is a safe diagnostic procedure and carries little risk.
Complications are not common.
If they occur, the more common ones are hoarseness, fever and coughing up blood.
Only rarely do people have other more serious complications.
What is endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS)?
Some people have enlarged lymph glands within their chest which need further investigation.
This can be done during a bronchoscopy by passing a needle (under direct vision) into a lymph gland and taking a sample of tissue.
This is a painless biopsy procedure and can often avoid a more invasive surgical procedure.
What happens after a bronchoscopy?
We will observe you until you are awake enough to leave hospital (the same day or day after).
Tell the nurse if you have any chest pain, difficulty breathing or notice a large amount of blood (more than one tablespoon) in your saliva.
It is normal to cough up a small amount of blood for a couple of days afterwards.
As the procedure is done under sedation you can’t eat or drink anything for at least 2 hours because your throat will still be numb. There is also a danger that you could inhale food or drink into your lungs.
You MUST make arrangements for home.
What should I do after I go home?
For 24 hours after bronchoscopy you are strongly advised:
Not to drink alcohol
To take your usual medication unless advised not to by your doctor or the hospital team
Not to drive or cycle
Not to operate machinery, including kitchen equipment
Not to sign any legal documents or make important decisions
Not to be alone at night
When will I get the results?
The results of any samples taken may take four to five days. Before going home we will give you an appointment to return for your results.
Video footage of a bronchoscopy
This is a YouTube video of what bronchoscopy involves.
Some people get squeamish looking at these sorts of pictures, but others are keen to get as much information as possible, so have a look if so.
In Aberdeen we do things fairly similarly, although the doctors doing the test usually pass the flexible camera through the mouth (rather than the nose) - this is much more comfortable.