A Bronchoscopy procedure allows your doctor to look at your throat, trachea, larynx and lower airways through a viewing device called a bronchoscope. The procedure can also be used to remove a small sample of tissues from the above areas, commonly known as a biopsy.
Bronchoscopy is performed to diagnose or treat a wide range of lung diseases and problems. It is usually performed by a lung specialist – pulmonologist or thoracic surgeon. Bronchoscopy is done with bronchoscopes, which are of two types: rigid and flexible fiber optic. It is a relatively safe procedure for patients.
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Bronchoscopy Diagnosis & Treatment
Bronchoscopy is commonly used in the diagnosis and treatment of the following conditions:
- Continuous coughing without any possible explanation
- Blood in the phlegm or while discharging mucus
- X-ray showing unexplained nodule, mass or inflammation in the lungs
- In case a lung infection is seen after evaluation
- Removal of foreign bodies from the airways
- To open a blockage in the airway caused by a tumor or other mass by using a stent (a small tube)
- To remove unnatural growth blocking the airway such as a tumor, mass or other growths
Apart from the above, bronchoscopy is also done to get tissue specimens to diagnose lung disorders and for the treatment of diseases such as asthma and emphysema, which is an abnormal condition of the lungs indicated by reduced respiratory function and common with habitual smoking, old age or chronic bronchitis. Additionally, it is also used in the treatment of air leaks in the lungs caused by surgery.
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Before the procedure, patients should follow the below instructions unless instructed otherwise by the doctor.
- Do not drink or eat anything after midnight before the day of the bronchoscopy procedure.
- Though you can take routine medications, avoid drugs with aspirin, warfarin, ibuprofen or medicines that increase the risk of bleeding.
The doctor will give you medication to relax your airways and reduce throat irritation and coughing before the procedure. It is unlikely that you’ll remember anything about this procedure once you take the medications since they are usually sedatives. After the initial drugs, you will be given additional medications through a tiny IV needle inserted into your vein. Then, the following steps are followed:
- You will be connected to a heart and blood pressure monitor and be given extra oxygen during the examination. An additional sedative may also be given intravenously at this stage.
- Then, a thin bronchoscope tube is entered either through your nose or mouth into your throat. This pipe passes through the vocal chords then into your windpipe and finally reaches your lungs.
- You’ll feel that you are unable to catch your breath when the bronchoscope passes through the vocal cords, but that’s totally normal and temporary.
- You should take slow, shallow breaths and try not to talk when the tube is inside your lungs.
During the procedure, if any abnormality is seen and samples are required, it is collected through the following methods:
- Washing: Saline water is injected through the tube into the affected area and the fluid is then sucked back. This procedure is done several times to get the right amount of samples.
- Needle Aspiration: It is done by inserting a tiny needle into the airway and also through the airway walls to get samples for analysis.
- Forceps Biopsy: As it suggests, forceps are used to obtain biopsy samples from lesions in the airway or lungs.
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When you wake from your sedation after the procedure, if you notice the following things, communicate them immediately to your doctor or nurse:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty in breathing
- More than normal (more than 1 tablespoon) of blood in your sputum
You may also experience a mild headache, fever, fatigue, and sore throat and nose post the procedure. Before discharging you, the nurse will remove the IV needle, and check your pulse, blood pressure and respiratory state. The doctor may also advise a chest X-ray before you leave. Post a bronchoscopy you cannot eat or drink anything for the next 1-2 hours.