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Quick Facts



The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021
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What is bronchoscopy?

Bronchoscopy is a test used to look inside your lungs. After giving you medicine to make you sleepy, the doctor puts a flexible scope down your nose or mouth into your lungs. Through the scope the doctor can:

  • See where in your lungs any bleeding is coming from

  • Get samples of mucus to check for infection

  • Take a small piece of tissue to check for cancer

  • Remove a foreign body from your lungs


To view the airways directly, a doctor passes a flexible bronchoscope through a person's nostril and down into the airways. The area in the pink circle shows what the doctor sees.


What happens during bronchoscopy?

Before the procedure you're given medicines to relax you or sometimes put you to sleep. For your safety, you shouldn't eat for at least 6 hours before the bronchoscopy.

  • Doctors spray a numbing medicine in your throat

  • Doctors thread the small flexible tube through your nose or mouth and into your lungs

Doctors can do several procedures during a bronchoscopy, such as:

  • Push salt water into your lung and then suction it back out to look for infection or cancer cells

  • Take a biopsy (a sample of tissue to look at under a microscope) with forceps or a needle that's passed through the scope

After bronchoscopy, doctors will watch you for 2 to 4 hours until you're fully awake. If they did a biopsy, you'll usually have a chest x-ray to make sure you didn't develop any problems, such as a collapsed lung.

Why do doctors do bronchoscopy?

Doctors use a bronchoscopy to look for problems such as:

  • Bleeding in the lungs

  • Lung damage from breathing in smoke

  • A foreign body that you choked on, such as a peanut

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