Bronchoscopy - A Guide for Critical Care Patients & Their Families
This handout tells about bronchoscopy. A nurse will go over the information with you. If you have any questions, please ask the nurse or doctor.
What is a Bronchoscopy?
A bronchoscopy is an exam of the inside of the lungs using a thin flexible tube called a bronchoscope. Reasons for doing the exam include:
- find the cause for cough or hoarseness
- determine presence of mucous and removal of excess mucous
- find the cause of coughing up blood
- check for the cause of abnormal chest x-ray
- get mucous samples (washings)
- take tissue biopsies
- diagnose airway injury
- diagnose tumors, tuberculosis or other infections, obstructions, or any other abnormal findings.
Before the Exam
Before the exam, a nurse will give the patient medicine to relax. Through an IV, the patient will receive medicines to continue relaxation, reduce coughing, dry the mouth and throat, and reduce discomfort.
During the Exam
A nurse will watch the patient’s comfort, blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, and amount of oxygen in the patient’s blood. Nostrils and throat will be numbed with an anesthetic jelly or spray. An oxygen tube will be placed in one nostril. A bronchoscope will be passed through the other nostril, down the throat and into the lungs. This should cause only slight discomfort or a cough. As the scope is moved, the doctor will numb the area ahead of it by spraying with an anesthetic liquid.
The patient may or may not have a breathing tube in place before the procedure. Sometimes the breathing tube is placed for the bronchoscopy and will be left in place for several hours afterwards.
If the Patient does not have the breathing tube in:
- The patient may swallow the anesthetic jelly or spray, it is not harmful.
- If the patient feels the urge to cough when the liquid is sprayed, it is OK to do so. The anesthesia will numb the area in seconds and suppress the urge to cough.
- The patient will not be able to talk while the scope is in the lungs. The doctor will have the patient signal with hands if uncomfortable.
It is common for the doctor to take biopsies (a small piece of tissue), washings and/or brushings. The patient feels no pain when these samples are taken. X-rays may be taken during and after the procedure.
The entire exam, from start to finish, will take about 30-60 minutes.
After the Exam
If biopsies were taken, the patient may cough up tiny spots of blood. This should not last longer than the next morning. If it does, let the nurse know.
- Fluids may be limited.
- The patient may have a sore throat.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 03/30/2011
Copyright © 03/30/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4481
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