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Overview of Bronchoscopy

A bronchoscopy is a minor procedure that will allow for your physician to see into the air passages and into the lungs. This is typically performed by a pulmonologist. During this procedure, a thin tube is passed through your nose or throat and into the lungs. This tube is typically very flexible, but in cases where there is a lot of bleeding or a blockage in the airways, then a more rigid device will be used. You may need a bronchoscopy if you have an infection, an unusual x-ray, or a persistent cough. During this procedure, your physician will be able to remove blockages and take samples of tissue or mucus. Recovery from a bronchoscopy is typically very fast, and most people feel better the same day. There are not many risks that are associated with this procedure, but you will want to discuss any concerns and instructions with your physician. A bronchoscopy can also be used as a treatment tool to deliver medications or remove a blockage.

Why have a Bronchoscopy done?

This procedure is usually done because there is a problem with the lungs. If you have lung cancer, then your physician may recommend this so they can check on the lymph nodes that are in the chest. In some cases, this procedure can also be used to treat certain problems that may be happening. For example, this condition may be used to remove tumors or other obstructions that are found in the airways or in the lungs. It can also be used to place a stent in the airways. If there is bleeding in the lungs, then a laser or electrocautery probe may be used to control bleeding.

Risks Associated with a Bronchoscopy

There are not many risks that are associated with a bronchoscopy, but in some cases, they may be more severe. Complications may be from the actual procedure, but in some cases, they may be from the numbing medication or the sedative that has been used. A fever is sometimes common after the procedure. With a fever, there is typically no treatment that is needed, and it does not mean that there is a sign of infection. Bleeding is likely if there has been damage by the disease in the area in which the same was taken. Usually, this bleeding stops and no further treatment is necessary. The most extreme risk that is associated with this procedure is a collapsed lung. This is very rate, but sometimes an airway may be injured. Usually, this is easily treated but may require admission to the hospital.

Results from a Bronchoscopy

Usually, results are ready between one to three days after the procedure. Your physician will want to discuss what was found during the procedure. From these findings, you and your physician will decide on how they want to treat any lung problems that may have been found. A pathologist may want to further examine the biopsy from the bronchoscopy. These may take two or more weeks to be returned.

What Does a Bronchoscopy Test For?

A bronchoscopy is used to test for the cause of any lung problems that you may be having. It can look for and detect excess mucus, tumors, bleeding, blockages, and any signs of infection. Your physician can also take samples during the procedure if further testing is necessary. This procedure may be used to diagnose an infection, a chronic cough, lung disease, or a tumor.

Treatment after a Bronchoscopy

Once you have reviewed the findings with your physician, you both will decide what steps will be best to take to treat what lung condition is found. This care plan will be different for every person. There is no set treatment after you have completed a bronchoscopy.

How Do You Prepare for a Bronchoscopy?

There are a few things that your physician will go over when you are ready for your procedure. For example, you will not be able to drive yourself home after the procedure. You will need to arrange for someone to bring you to the appointment and also take you home after because of the lingering side effects that are found with the medications. You will also likely be recommended to stop taking any blood-thinning medications before the procedure. In most cases, you should not eat or drink 8 hours before the procedure. You will want to double-check these instructions with your physician, as they may be slightly different for each person. When you arrive for the procedure, you will be asked to put on a gown and take out any dentures, bridges, or partials. You will also be asked to remove your glasses, contacts, and hearing aids.

What Should I Expect?

This procedure is typically done in an operating room or a procedure room. The whole process usually takes about four hours, but the actual procedure usually only takes 30-60 minutes. You will be given relaxing medications to make you feel sleepy, but you will actually still be awake. You will also be given numbing medications for your throat and nose, which means that you will not feel the need to cough and will not gag on the bronchoscope as it goes down the throat. After the procedure, you will be monitored for a couple of hours. You will still feel numb and you will not be allowed to eat or drink until this goes away. This is because there is a possibility of food or drink entering the lungs and airways if you are still numb. You may experience a mild sore throat, muscle aches, coughing, and being hoarse after the procedure. These are all normal side effects. You will want to notify your doctor if you have been coughing up more than a couple of tablespoons of blood, have a fever that lasts for days, are having trouble breathing, or have increasing chest pain. Typically, recovering from a bronchoscopy is very fast. Most people feel back to normal the same day. The longest part of recovery is waiting for the medications to wear off.