Author: Karen Arnold-Korzeniowski, MSN RN
Last Reviewed: December 28, 2022

What is a bronchoscopy?

A bronchoscopy is a medical test that uses a flexible or rigid bronchoscope (thin tube) to look at the inside of your lungs and airway. It is often done by a pulmonologist (a doctor who specializes in lung issues). This test may be done:

  • For a new or worsening cough.
  • For infection.
  • To do a biopsy.
  • To help with a blockage.
  • To look at an issue found on another imaging test.

How do I prepare for a bronchoscopy?

Your provider will review your medical history, allergies, and current medications. Be sure to tell your provider if you are taking any blood thinners, as these may have to be stopped a few days before the test. You will be given specific instructions to follow, but in general, you will not be allowed to eat for at least 6-12 hours before the test.

How is this test done?

An intravenous line (IV) will be placed. You will be asked to lean back on a table or bed with your arms at your sides. You will be given medication through your IV to make you sleepy, help you relax, and to help you not remember the test very well. You won’t be so sleepy that you won’t be able to answer questions. A numbing spray will be sprayed in your throat and sometimes a numbing gel will be placed in your nose.

Once you are comfortable, the bronchoscope will be placed in your nose or mouth, down your throat, and into your lungs. There are things that may happen during the bronchoscopy depending on the reason for the bronchoscopy. These may be:

  • Saline may be put into the lungs through the tube to wash the lungs. This is called lavage. The fluid is removed and helps collect samples of cells, fluids, and other things from the lungs for testing.
  • Tissue samples (biopsy) may be removed using a brush, needle, or forceps.
  • A stent may be placed to help with a blockage.
  • An ultrasound may be used to look at lymph nodes and tissues around your airway.

Your provider will talk to you before your test about what procedures may need to be done during your bronchoscopy.

What should I expect after the bronchoscopy?

You should not drive yourself home after the test and you will need to rest the next day. Your ability to cough will come back 1-2 hours after the test. You should not eat or drink until this happens. Your throat may be sore or scratchy for a few days.

How will I get the results of my bronchoscopy?

Usually, the provider will talk to you about the findings of the test before you go home. They will tell you about any procedures they did during the bronchoscopy. Any biopsies that were taken will be sent to a pathologist to be reviewed. The results of this usually come back in 7-10 days. Your care provider will be able to talk with you about these results.

When should I contact my care provider?

There can be risks and side effects of having a bronchoscopy. Contact your provider if:

  • Your heart feels like it is racing or skipping a beat.
  • You have trouble breathing or swallowing.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have a sore throat that is not going away.
  • You are coughing up blood.

There are many reasons that you may need a bronchoscopy. Talk to your provider about why you need the test and ask them any questions you may have.

American Lung Association. Bronchoscopy.

MedlinePlus. Bronchoscopy.