What Does an Endobronchial Ultrasound Tell You?

Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on September 17, 2022
2 min read

An endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) gives your doctor a look at your bronchi, the airways leading to your lungs. It can also help your doctor do a procedure like a biopsy.

An EBUS uses a tool called a bronchoscope to do this, and you won’t get any surgical cuts to your chest for this procedure.

You may get an EBUS if your doctor thinks you may have a lung condition such as an infection, lung cancer, lymphoma, or an inflammatory disease like sarcoidosis.

Before EBUS. You may need to get blood tests done first. And you’ll need to fast (not eat or drink anything) for several hours before the procedure.

Your doctor will also review your medications and let you know if you need to make any changes before the procedure. For instance, you’ll likely need to take a break from blood-thinning drugs such as aspirin.

On the day of your appointment, just before the procedure, you’ll get anesthesia and sedation to relax your airways and make it easier to insert the bronchoscope.

During EBUS. Your doctor inserts the bronchoscope, a thin, lighted tube, through your mouth, down your windpipe, and into the bronchi. A small camera attached to the bronchoscope lets your doctor see your airways, blood vessels, lungs, and lymph nodes on an ultrasound monitor.

The bronchoscope also has a fine needle so your doctor can take a sample of tissue and fluid samples from your lungs and surrounding lymph nodes. The sample is called a biopsy, and the procedure is called a transbronchial needle aspiration.

After EBUS. It will take a few hours before you’re able to cough after the procedure. Your throat may feel sore and scratchy for a few days.

Your doctor will send the biopsy to a lab for testing. If you have lung cancer, the information from the needle aspiration can help your doctor figure out the cancer’s stage.

Your doctor will let you know what the results are and what your next steps may be.

You’ll want to keep these things in mind about endobronchial ultrasounds.

Benefits. EBUS is usually an outpatient procedure, meaning that you’ll go home the same day. In addition to avoiding surgical cuts, the bronchoscope also lets your doctor access more areas of the lungs, including hard-to-reach spots such as smaller lymph nodes.

Risks. While endobronchial ultrasounds are generally safe, there are risks, and some people won’t be able to get this procedure. There’s a chance that you could have bleeding at the biopsy site, get an infection after EBUS, or develop low oxygen levels during or after EBUS. There is also a small risk of your lung collapsing. Your doctor will weigh the risks against the benefits.