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Bronchoscopy

Bronchoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to look at your airway through a thin viewing instrument called a bronchoscope. During a bronchoscopy camera.gif, your doctor will examine your throat, larynx camera.gif, trachea camera.gif, and lower airways.

Bronchoscopy may be done to diagnose problems with the airway, the lungs, or with the lymph nodes in the chest, or to treat problems such as an object or growth in the airway.

There are two types of bronchoscopy.

  • Flexible bronchoscopy uses a long, thin, lighted tube to look at your airway. The flexible bronchoscope is used more often than the rigid bronchoscope because it usually does not require general anesthesia, is more comfortable for the person, and offers a better view of the smaller airways. It also allows the doctor to remove small samples of tissue (biopsy).
  • Rigid bronchoscopy is usually done with general anesthesia and uses a straight, hollow metal tube. It is used:
    • When there is bleeding in the airway that could block the flexible scope's view.
    • To remove large tissue samples for biopsy.
    • To clear the airway of objects (such as a piece of food) that cannot be removed using a flexible bronchoscope.

Special procedures, such as widening (dilating) the airway or destroying a growth using a laser, are usually done with a rigid bronchoscope.

Why It Is Done

Bronchoscopy may be used to:

  • Find the cause of airway problems, such as bleeding, trouble breathing, or a long-term (chronic) cough.
  • Take tissue samples when other tests, such as a chest X-ray or CT scan, show problems with the lung or with lymph nodes in the chest.
  • Diagnose lung diseases by collecting tissue or mucus (sputum) samples for examination.
  • Diagnose and determine the extent of lung cancer.
  • Remove objects blocking the airway.
  • Check and treat growths in the airway camera.gif.
  • Control bleeding.
  • Treat areas of the airway that have narrowed and are causing problems.
  • Treat cancer of the airway using radioactive materials (brachytherapy).
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 24, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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