Bronchoscopy | Cancer | Loyola Medicine

Bronchoscopy

Overview and Facts about Bronchoscopy

In a bronchoscopy, your doctor passes a thin tube down your throat and into your lungs to assess breathing difficulties, infections or unusual images from a chest X-ray or other imaging test. The most common type of instrument used in this procedure is a flexible bronchoscope. However, if there is a large object, tumor or bleeding in the lungs, a rigid bronchoscope may be used. Biopsy may be paired with this procedure in order for your doctor to obtain a sample of tissue in the airway or lungs for lab analysis. 

What to Expect with Bronchoscopy

A bronchoscopy is usually performed in a hospital operating room and takes around 30-60 minutes. This timeframe does not include prep and recovery time, which take a bit longer. You will be placed on an IV and given a numbing anesthetic spray to your nose and throat. You doctor then passes the flexible or rigid bronchoscope down your nose or throat, as well as other small instruments to collect tissue samples if you are having a biopsy. You should not feel any pain during this procedure. 

Side Effects of Bronchoscopy

Your mouth and throat will be numb for a few hours because of the anesthetic spray after a bronchoscopy. You will have a sore throat, muscle aches, hoarseness and/or cough. Throat lozenges and gargling with warm water will help relieve these effects. While a bronchoscopy is a relatively safe procedure with minimal risk, you should contact your doctor if you have any of the following side effects:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fever that lasts more than a few days
  • Persistent chest pain 

Risks of Bronchoscopy

Risks from a bronchoscopy procedure are usually rare and minor. You may experience irritation in your throat from where the tube was placed. Other risks include:

  • Bleeding: Your lungs are likely inflamed or damaged if you need a bronchoscopy, so you may experience some bleeding, especially if a biopsy was taken. This is usually minor and will stop on its own.
  • Collapsed lung: In rare cases, a lung may be punctured during this procedure.