Bronchoscopy

  • Medical Author:
    George Schiffman, MD, FCCP

    Dr. Schiffman received his B.S. degree with High Honors in biology from Hobart College in 1976. He then moved to Chicago where he studied biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. He attended Rush Medical College where he received his M.D. degree in 1982 and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at the University of California, Irvine.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Bronchoscopy facts

  • Bronchoscopy is a procedure that is performed by lung specialists (pulmonologists or thoracic surgeons) to diagnose or treat a variety of lung-related diseases.
  • There are two types of bronchoscopes - flexible fiber optic and rigid.
  • Bronchoscopy is relatively safe.
  • Bronchoscopy is performed in various settings, including same-day outpatient bronchoscopy suite, operating room, hospital ward, and/or intensive care unit.

What is bronchoscopy?

Bronchoscopy is a procedure during in which an examiner uses a viewing tube to evaluate a patient's lung and airways including the voice box and vocal cord, trachea, and many branches of bronchi. Bronchoscopy is usually performed by a pulmonologist or a thoracic surgeon. Although a bronchoscope does not allow for direct viewing and inspection of the lung tissue itself, samples of the lung tissue can be biopsied through the bronchoscope for examination in the laboratory.

There are two types of bronchoscopes - a flexible fiberoptic bronchoscope and a rigid bronchoscope. Since the 1960s, the fiberoptic bronchoscope has progressively supplanted the rigid bronchoscope because of overall ease of use. In some patients, flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy can be performed without anesthesia, but in most cases, conscious sedation "twilight sleep") is utilized. However, rigid bronchoscopy requires general anesthesia and the services of an anesthesiologist. During the bronchoscopy, the examiner can see the tissues of the airways either directly by looking through the instrument or by viewing on a TV monitor.

Depending on the indication the examiner will choose between the flexible fiber optic bronchoscope and the rigid bronchoscope. For example, if a patient were coughing up large amounts of blood, a rigid bronchoscope is used since it has a large suction channel and allows for the use of instruments that can better control bleeding. The vast majority of bronchoscopies are performed using the flexible fiberoptic scope because of the improved patient comfort and reduced use of anesthesia.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/14/2015

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