Bronchoscopy

If you have symptoms of lung disease, your doctor may need to look inside your lungs through a procedure called bronchoscopy.

Because your lungs are deep inside your body, it’s natural to assume bronchoscopy is a difficult test. But it’s generally a short, safe procedure that doesn’t require a hospital stay.

Bronchoscopy is a type of endoscopy. Like all endoscopic procedures, it’s a way for your doctor to see inside your body without surgery. Bronchoscopy looks specifically at your respiratory system.

During the procedure, your doctor inserts a thin, hollow tube (bronchoscope) into your nose or mouth. He or she guides the bronchoscope down your throat and trachea (windpipe). Then they guide it into your bronchi and bronchioles. These are the tubes inside your lungs that carry oxygen.

The bronchoscope is mounted with a tiny light and camera. The camera projects images onto a video screen. This gives your doctor a real-time, close-up view inside your lungs.

What is Bronchoscopy Used For?

Bronchoscopy has many uses, including:

  • Finding out why you have unusual symptoms, such as chronic cough.
  • Diagnosing medical problems including lung cancer and infections.
  • Taking tissue samples (biopsies) to test for cancer.
  • Performing bronchoalveolar lavage to take samples from your bronchioles. Your doctor sprays liquid through the bronchoscope to “wash” the bronchiole. The liquid, which now contains cells from inside your bronchiole, is sucked out and analyzed.
  • Inserting airway stents to open your narrowed trachea or bronchial tube. Your doctor places a hollow device (stent) inside the compressed part of your airway. The stent temporarily or permanently props it open.
  • Performing balloon bronchoplasty (dilation) to widen your trachea or bronchial tube. Using a bronchoscope, your doctor places a tiny balloon in the narrowed part of your airway. When he or she inflates the balloon, your airway expands.
  • Performing other treatments. These include removing a blockage from your airway, spraying medication into a lung or sucking out excess mucus.

Bronchoscopy Procedures Available at Mercy

Mercy offers several types of bronchoscopy. These include advanced techniques that combine bronchoscopy and imaging technology:

  • Flexible bronchoscopy is the most common type of bronchoscopy. It uses a bendable tube that's small enough to reach the tiniest bronchioles in your lungs.
  • Rigid bronchoscopy uses a wider, straight tube that cannot bend. It can remove larger objects from your upper airway, take larger tissue samples or insert airway stents.
  • Endobronchial ultrasound combines bronchoscopy and ultrasound imaging. It lets your doctor take detailed pictures of the tissue and lymph nodes in and around your lungs.
  • Electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy uses software much like the GPS system in your car or phone. It helps doctors find the location of a hard-to-reach lung tumor, then guide a bronchoscope directly to it.

It’s normal to feel nervous before having a medical procedure. But tests like bronchoscopy are a vital step toward getting you the treatments you need. And no matter what your test results show, you’ll find the care and support you need at Mercy.

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