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Bronchoscopy is a medical procedure where a tube is inserted into the airways, usually through the nose or mouth. This allows the practitioner to examine inside a patient's airway for abnormalities such as foreign bodies, bleeding, tumors, or inflammation. The practitioner often takes samples from inside the lungs: biopsies, fluid (bronchoalveolar lavage), or endobronchial brushing. The practitioner may use either a rigid bronchoscope or flexible bronchoscope.

Rigid Bronchoscopy A rigid bronchoscope is a straight, hollow, metal tube. Doctors perform rigid bronchoscopy less often today, but it remains the procedure of choice for removing foreign material. Rigid bronchoscopy also becomes useful when bleeding interferes with viewing the examining area.

Flexible Bronchoscopy A flexible bronchoscope is a long thin tube that contains small clear optical fibers that transmit light images as the tube bends. Its flexibility allows this instrument to reach further into the airway. The procedure can be performed easily and safely under local anesthesia.

Risks Although the rigid bronchoscope can scratch or tear airway or damage the vocal cords, the risk for bronchoscopy is limited. The conditions for which doctors use it are ongoing, life-threatening cardiac problems or severely low oxygen.

Complications from fiberoptic bronchoscopy remain extremely low.

Common complications include either heart and blood vessel problems or excessive bleeding following biopsy. A lung biopsy also may cause leakage of air called pneumothorax. Pneumothorax occurs in less than 1% of cases requiring lung biopsy.

Relevant Specialties
Respiratory and Sleep Medicine
Medical Conditions
Lung cancer
Chronic cough

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