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Bronchoscopy

Risks continued...

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.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • A problem that limits your ability to extend your neck.
  • A biopsy sample that is too small for a diagnosis.

Also, a biopsy collects tissue from such a small area, so there is a chance that a cancer may be missed.

What To Think About

  • Before a final diagnosis is made, the results of a bronchoscopy will be considered along with your medical history, physical examination, and the results of other tests including a chest X-ray or a computed tomography (CT) scan. A lung biopsy may be needed when all of these other results are inconclusive.
  • A needle biopsy with a CT scan is commonly used because it can diagnose many lung problems. A bronchoscopy may be a better option when the problem is close to the airway. Your doctor will determine the best method for you.
  • Virtual bronchoscopy uses a CT scan to provide a picture of the throat and airways. It does not require the placement of a bronchoscope down the throat.
  • Bronchoscopy methods that use ultrasound and other technologies can help diagnose and treat more problems than standard bronchoscopy. But these methods may not be available everywhere.

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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