Invasive tests - Bronchoscopy

Bronchoscopy is a test where a fibre optic telescope with a camera is inserted into the nose or mouth, is passed through the vocal cords and down into the airways that supply the right and left lung.

Bronchoscope going down through trachea into left bronchus

A bronchoscopy is performed for many reasons:

  • To visualise and biopsy abnormal or cancerous areas seen on a CT scan.
  • To test for lung infections.
  • To look for abnormalities not seen on a CT scan if there are undiagnosed and persistent symptoms, for example, cough or coughing up blood.
  • To take a lung biopsy ( a small lung tissue sample) to diagnose lung conditions, particularly in interstitial lung disease which has many types and causes.

During the bronchoscopy

  • Patients will need to have fasted (no food or drink for a few hours) before the procedure.
  • Oxygen levels, heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored during the bronchoscopy.
  • A sedative is given intravenously (in to a vein). This will not make the patient unconscious, but it should make them feel more relaxed.
  • A local anaesthetic is given to the back of the throat, over the vocal cords and over the airways to reduce coughing.
  • A camera is inserted in to the upper airway and the images from the camera are seen on a small screen allowing the operator to direct the scope inside the body.
  • The procedure is usually over within 5-10 minutes.