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Bronchoscopy

How It Feels

If you have general anesthesia, you will feel nothing during the procedure. Oxygen is usually given through a small tube placed in your nose if you are awake during the procedure.

You may be able to feel pressure in your airway as the bronchoscope is moved from place to place. You may gag or cough during bronchoscopy. Your airway will not be blocked, but if you feel discomfort let your doctor know.

After the procedure, you may feel tired for a day or so and have general muscle aches. If a local anesthetic is used, you may have a bitter taste in your mouth. Your mouth may feel very dry for several hours after the procedure. You may also have a sore throat and some hoarseness for a few days. Sucking on throat lozenges or gargling with warm salt water may help soothe your sore throat.

The anesthesia will make it hard to swallow. You will need to avoid eating or drinking for 1 to 2 hours after the procedure.

If a biopsy sample was taken, it is normal to spit up a small amount of blood after the procedure.

Risks

Bronchoscopy is generally a safe procedure. Although complications are rare, your doctor will discuss any risks with you. Complications that may occur include:

  • Spasms of the bronchial tubes, which can impair breathing.
  • Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias).
  • Infections, such as pneumonia. These can usually can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Ongoing hoarseness.

If a biopsy was done during bronchoscopy, complications that may occur include:

  • A tear in the lung from the biopsy forceps used to collect a tissue sample. This will allow air to flow into the pleural space, producing a partial collapse of the lung (pneumothorax).
  • Bleeding caused by the biopsy forceps used to collect the tissue.
  • An infection from the biopsy procedure.
  • A very small chance of death.

After the procedure

Call your doctor immediately if you:

  • Cough up more than 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of blood.
  • Have trouble breathing.
  • Have a fever for more than 24 hours. A mild fever [lower than 100°F (38°C)] may be present right after the procedure, but this is not a concern.

Results

Bronchoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to look at your airway through a thin viewing instrument called a bronchoscope. Your doctor may discuss your results with you soon after the procedure. Test results on any biopsy samples are usually available in 2 to 4 days.

Bronchoscopy
Normal:

The large airway leading to the lungs and the breathing tubes in the lungs appear normal. There are no objects, thick secretions, or growths.

Abnormal:

An object, thick secretions, or growths are blocking your airway.

Tissue sample shows a lung infection or disease, such as tuberculosis or lung cancer.

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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