What is Bronchoscopy Procedure
Bronchoscopy is a diagnostic or treatment procedure that allows doctors to get a closer look at the inside of the airways. The procedure is generally performed by specialists with expertise in lung illnesses – pulmonologists. As it is an endoscopic technique, the procedure involves the use of a thin tube called a bronchoscope. This tube is introduced into your body via the nasal or oral passages and is sent down the throat into the lungs.
When Do You Need a Bronchoscopy?
In most cases, a bronchoscopy is recommended to identify the cause of an undiagnosed lung problem. This is likely to be the case when you have a persistent cough or other respiratory symptoms, or an abnormal chest X-ray, but no clear diagnosis. The procedure can then help to:
- Diagnose lung diseases
- Detect tumors or other airway obstructions
- Identify a lung infection
- Perform a biopsy of lung tissue
In addition to being used as a diagnostic tool, bronchoscopy can also be used as a treatment tool to clear airway obstruction, place a stent to keep an airway open, control bleeding, and so on. Sometimes, doctors can use the procedure to send other devices through a bronchoscope, such as a laser to reduce tumor growths.
How the Bronchoscopy Procedure is Performed
Before the procedure begins, a local anesthetic spray is administered to the nose and throat, so you don’t have to worry about experiencing any kind of discomfort. In most cases, you will also be given a sedative to help you relax, but you are unlikely to need general anesthesia. However, patients undergoing the procedure are usually given oxygen. Once you are completely relaxed, your doctor will start the procedure by inserting the bronchoscope into the nasal passages.
Once the bronchoscope is introduced into the nose, it travels down the throat till it reaches the bronchi, which are air passages leading from the trachea to the lungs. Depending on your condition, the bronchoscope may have brush or needle attachments for tissue sample collection. Additionally, doctors can use processes like bronchial washing to collect samples of cells for analysis. The technique involves spraying the airway surfaces with a saline solution, washing off cells from the surface. These cells can be collected and analyzed under a microscope.
If there is any blockage or obstruction of the airways, doctors can also use stents to keep the air passages open. These small tubes can be put in place with the help of a bronchoscope. Once all of the diagnostic and treatment objectives have been completed, your doctor will remove the bronchoscope.
The procedure is generally safe and is not likely to cause any major complications. Nevertheless, your doctor will monitor your condition to make sure of this. You will most likely experience mild side effects, such as soreness of the throat, coughing, or hoarseness, but these symptoms resolve naturally. If you haven’t checked into hospital, but are getting a bronchoscopy as an outpatient, you should be discharged within a few hours. However, you should make arrangements to be driven home as it will take time for the sedative and anaesthesia effects to wear off completely.
Dr Sudhir Prasad
MBBS, MD, EDARM (Europe), FCCP (USA)
Consultant – Pulmonologist
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