A bronchoscopy is a minor procedure for examining the airways internally. It involves passing a bronchoscope (a flexible telescope) through the nose, down the trachea (“windpipe”) and into the lower airways within the lungs. The purpose is to directly visualise the inside of the airways. In addition, it is possible to obtain samples of mucous and other debris within the airways, remove foreign material that has been inhaled, and take tissue biopsies of abnormal areas.
Common reasons for undertaking bronchoscopy include
- Lung infections
- Infiltrates detected by radiological imaging of the lungs
- Lung nodules and masses (including investigations for lung cancer)
- Chronic cough
In general bronchoscopy is performed as a day procedure and most often it is done under deep sedation rather than a full general anaesthetic. The procedure itself takes approximately 30 minutes. Under experienced hands it is a safe procedure and the risk of significant complications is quite low.