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What is Bronchoscopy

What is a Bronchoscopy?

A bronchoscopy is a test which allows the consultant to look directly at the trachea (the windpipe), the bronchi (branches of the airways) and into some areas of the lungs. A bronchoscope is passed up through your nose, past your larynx (voice box), down your trachea and into the bronchi.

What can I expect?

During the test: You may be given a pre-medication injection prior to the examination which will cause your mouth to feel dry and make you feel sleepy. In the examination room you will be made comfortable on a couch in a sitting or lying position. The consultant may give you an injection into a vein in your arm or hand. A local anaesthetic will be sprayed into your nose and to the back of your throat.

It usually takes 15-20 minutes to examine the areas carefully. A soft plastic tube may be placed inside your other nostril to give you some extra oxygen, and a plastic clip may be placed over a finger to monitor the amount of oxygen in your body and the pulse rate. It may be necessary to use an X-ray machine to guide the passage of the bronchoscope to certain parts of your lungs. When the examination is finished the bronchoscope is removed quickly and easily, causing little discomfort.

During the test different procedures may be performed to obtain small amounts of tissue for further examination in the laboratory. A biopsy specimen may be taken from a particular area. This involves the painless removal of a small piece of tissue using tiny forceps threaded through the bronchoscope. If the biopsy needs to be taken from an area which is more difficult to reach, X-ray equipment may be used in a darkened room to help the consultant locate the tissue.

After the test

If you are still sleepy from the sedation you will be left to rest in the ward or unit where a nurse is always present. Because your throat will be numbed it is not safe to eat or drink in case it is inhaled. Your swallowing reflex should return to normal in about three hours. After the test you may have a slight nosebleed and if you have had a biopsy taken you may find streaks of blood in your phlegm. This will usually pass within the next 24 hours and is nothing to worry about. Any soreness in the throat or a hoarse voice will also ease within a day or so.

Going home?

If you are having a Bronchoscopy without any additional treatment it is possible that you may be allowed home a few hours after the test, but it is essential that someone comes to collect you. Once home, it is important to rest quietly for the remainder of the day. Sedation lasts longer than you think.

For 24 hours after your test you should not:

- drive a car

- operate machinery

- drink alcohol

The effects of the test and sedation should have worn off by the next day, when most patients are able to resume normal activities.