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Bronchoscopy is a procedure that allows the bronchial tree to be examined, and samples of secretions or tissues to be taken.

What does it consist of?

Bronchoscopy consists of introducing a tube-shaped device (a bronchoscope) through the nose or mouth. It is directed through the larynx, trachea and the bronchi. This tube has a light and a camera at the end, and the images can be seen on a monitor.

What is it used for?

Flexible diagnostic or therapeutic bronchoscopy is a widely used procedure in daily practice at most hospitals. Normally, the main objectives are to examine the airways and obtain samples. Other indications may be the extraction of mucus plugs, or residual blood. It can also sometimes be used to extract foreign bodies.

How is it done?

Prior to the start of the procedure, the patient is provided with information about the test and must sign an informed consent form. Generally, a small calibre peripheral line is inserted to administer an intravenous sedative. Afterwards, anaesthesia is administered through the mouth or nostrils, generally in a spray, and the bronchoscope is introduced. Subsequently, liquid local anaesthesia is used in the areas through which the broncoscope will pass (larynx, trachea, bronchi). Checks are carried out and samples are then taken, as indicated by the medical professional.

How long does it take?

In general, the procedure lasts less than 30 minutes, but the patient must stay under observation until the effects of the sedative wear off.

How should I prepare?

You should follow the recommendations of your healthcare professional for this test. You should inform them of any allergies you have, and any medication you are taking (particularly anticoagulant, antidiabetic and antihypertensive drugs) to assess the need to take them the day of the test or not. You should not consume any liquids or solids for six hours before the test, and patients who smoke cannot smoke on the day of the test. You should be accompanied by someone, due to the administration of sedatives.

Who will perform the test?

The procedure is carried out by a qualified team, which is normally formed by a pulmonologist specialised in endoscopic techniques and two nurses. An anaesthesiologist may also be involved.

What does the test feel like?

During the procedure, you may cough and experience a feeling of breathlessness, mainly at the moment when the bronchoscope is introduced into the trachea. This improves with the local anaesthetic. No pain is felt during the test.

Potential complications

Even when the selected technique and performance of the procedure are correct, there may be minor complications such as hoarseness, coughing, fever or expectoration of small amounts of blood. Serious complications such as haemorrhage, arrhythmia or pneumothorax (air entering the thorax outside the lung) are infrequent, and may require medical or surgical treatment. Furthermore, some patients can present reactions to the sedative drugs, or decompensation of cardiac or pulmonary conditions. The hospital is excellently equipped with staff and resources to diagnose and treat all complications that may arise during this procedure.

Substantiated information by:

Carmen Lucena Pozo

Published: 6 November 2020
Updated: 6 November 2020

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