Bronchoscopy

A bronchoscopy is a procedure to look for any problems inside the airways (bronchi) using a flexible telescope. Your consultant is concerned that you may have a problem in your airways and a bronchoscopy is a good way of finding out if there is a problem or not.

Alternatives

An X-ray, scan or biopsy (removing small pieces of tissue) may give information about the cause of the problem. However, a bronchoscopy often leads to a diagnosis.

The procedure

Your doctor may offer you a sedative to help you relax. The procedure is not painful and you will not need any painkillers. Your doctor will usually use local anaesthetic gel and spray to numb your nose and throat. This can taste unpleasant. Your oxygen levels and heart rate will be monitored during the procedure.

A bronchoscopy usually takes less than fifteen minutes. Your doctor will pass a flexible telescope (bronchoscope) through your nose and down into your lungs. Sometimes they will pass the bronchoscope through your mouth instead of your nose.

Your doctor will use the bronchoscope to examine your airways. To help make the diagnosis, your doctor can perform biopsies and they may place a small amount of fluid in your lungs and then remove it. Sometimes they may perform a biopsy using a small needle that they pass through your airways to get samples of tissue beneath. This is called a WANG or transbronchial needle biopsy.

For more information, and if you have any queries about the procedure, speak to your consultant.

Continue your normal medication unless you are told otherwise.

The following lifestyle changes can help make the procedure a success:

  • Giving up smoking
  • Eating healthily. If overweight, you have a greater chance of developing complications
  • Exercising regularly. Your GP can recommend exercises.

Possible complications

  • Breathlessness, which quickly settles after the procedure
  • Bleeding from a biopsy site, which is usually minor and stops on its own
  • Developing a high temperature a short while after the procedure, which is easily treated with paracetamol
  • Developing a sore throat, which get better quickly
  • Allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or sedative.

This is not a definitive list and symptoms will vary with each patient. Please ask your consultant for more information.   

Recovery

If you were given sedation, you will normally recover in about two hours. Remember, you won’t be able to drive home after the procedure.

Once at home, if you have severe chest pain, continued vomiting, a high temperature lasting more than twelve hours, sudden breathlessness, or you cough up more than a tablespoon of blood, let your doctor know straightaway. You should be able to go back to work the day after the procedure.

A member of the healthcare team will tell you what was found during the bronchoscopy and will discuss with you any follow-up treatment you may need. You may need to come back to the clinic a few days after for biopsy results.

For further information, speak to your consultant or a member of the endoscopy team.

Paying for your procedure

Bronchoscopy costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the procedure will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the procedure. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.

Want to look at other treatments? or find it on the A-Z list.