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Bronchoscopy is used to view the airways and diagnose lung disease. It may also be used during treatment for some lung conditions.

Common reasons to perform a diagnostic bronchoscopy include:

  • Investigating abnormal changes to the lung, changes or scarring of lung tissue, or a collapsed lung
  • Lymph node biopsy
  • Shortness of breath or low oxygen levels
  • Persistent cough that has lasted more than 3 months without any clear cause
  • Infection in the lungs and major airways (bronchi)
  • Inhalation of a toxic gas or chemical
  • To see if there is a foreign object in the airway
  • To check for organ rejection after a lung transplant

A bronchoscopy may also be done to treat a lung or airway problem. Circumstances include:

  • Removing fluid or mucus plugs from the airways
  • Removing a foreign object from the airways
  • Dilating an airway that is blocked or narrowed
  • Draining an abscess
  • Treating cancer using a number of different techniques
  • Washing out an airway

How does it work?

A bronchoscope is a device used to see the inside of the airways and lungs. The scope can be flexible or rigid.

  • Medication will be administered through an IV to help the patient relax. Alternatively, the patient may be placed under general anesthesia.
  • The mouth and throat, or nose, are treated with an anesthetic.
  • The bronchoscope is gently inserted.
  • The physician may send saline solution through the scope to wash the lungs, collect samples of lung cells, fluids, microbes, etc. This is known as a lavage.
  • A biopsy may be taken.
  • The physician may also place a stent in the patient’s airway or view the lungs with an ultrasound. Ultrasound may also be used to see the lymph nodes and tissue around the airways.
  • At the end of the procedure, the scope is removed.