What happens when the test is performed?
- You wear a hospital gown during the procedure. You have an
IV (intravenous) line inserted into a vein in case you need medicines
or fluid during the procedure.
In some cases, your doctor decides that this procedure would
be safer or easier if you were intubated before the test and
for a short time afterward. This means having a plastic tube
placed through your mouth into your main airway. If you are intubated,
you are able to breathe, but you cannot speak while the tube
is in place, as it passes between your vocal cords in your voice
box. Intubation is always done with the assistance of an anesthesiologist,
who gives you medicines to relax your throat muscles and make
you unconscious for a minute or two while the tube is placed.
Most patients do not require intubation.
If you are not intubated, your doctor or nurse sprays a numbing
medicine onto the back of your throat just before the procedure.
This medicine makes it easier for you to have the bronchoscope
placed. Most patients are also given some medicine through the
IV to relax them.
You lie on a hospital bed for the procedure. Your doctor (usually
a pulmonary specialist) moves one end of the bronchoscope through
your mouth and throat and into your trachea (windpipe). Some
patients cough or gag briefly when this is done. The bronchoscope
is much narrower than your trachea, so you are able to breathe
easily during the procedure.
The doctor can see into your lungs by watching a TV screen that
shows the view from the camera on the end of the bronchoscope.
Your doctor can control a miniature vacuum at the end of the
scope that allows him or her to take a sample of mucus from inside
the lung. It is also possible for the doctor to take a biopsy
sample of the lung tissue using a needle that can be moved through
the scope. At the end of the test, the bronchoscope is pulled
out, and you might cough forcefully a few times, possibly coughing
out some phlegm.
Bronchoscopy usually takes 30 minutes to an hour, including setup
time. The camera is usually in place for less than 20 minutes.