Flexible Bronchoscopy

A flexible bronchoscopy is an exam of the airways of your lungs. A thin, flexible instrument called a bronchoscope is used. It has a light and small camera that allow the healthcare provider to view your airways.

Call your doctor if you have shortness of breath, a temperature above 101.0°F (38.3°C) for more than 24 hours, or bleeding from your nose or throat. If you have chest pain or severe shortness of breath, call right away.

Before your test

Front view of male chest showing flexible bronchoscopy.

  • Follow your healthcare provider's instructions carefully. If you don’t, the exam may be canceled or need to be repeated.

  • If you are taking blood-thinning medicine, ask your health care provider whether you should stop taking the medicine before this test.

  • Have no food or drink for 6 to 12 hours before the test. Also, avoid smoking for 24 hours before the test.

  • You will need to remove any dentures or bridgework.

  • Right before the test, you will be given sedating medications to help you relax. The medication may be given intravenously (IV) into one of your veins. In addition, your nose and throat may be numbed with a special spray to help prevent gagging and coughing.

  • If you are having this test as an outpatient, make sure you have an adult friend or family member to drive you home.

During your test

Bronchoscopy takes 45 to 60 minutes and includes the following steps:

  • You may receive anesthesia so that you are unconscious or asleep during the procedure.

  • The healthcare provider inserts the tube into your nose or mouth.

  • If you have not received anesthesia, you might feel a gagging sensation. To help relieve this feeling, you will be told to swallow or take deep breaths. Your airway will remain open even with the tube in place. But you won’t be able to talk.

  • The provider examines your breathing passages. He or she may also remove tiny tissue samples for biopsy.

After your test

  • You may have a mild sore throat. Your voice may also be hoarse. And, you may have a cough.

  • Do not eat or drink until the anesthesia wears off.

  • If you had a biopsy, avoid coughing hard and clearing your throat.

  • Call your healthcare provider if you have:

    • Shortness of breath

    • Chest pain

    • Bleeding from your nose or throat

    • A fever