Bronchoscopy is a procedure that looks inside the lung airways and is used to find the cause of a lung problem.

Bronchoscopy is a procedure that looks inside the lung airways. It involves inserting a bronchoscope tube, with its light and small camera, through your nose or mouth, down your throat into your trachea, or windpipe, and to the bronchi and bronchioles of your lungs. This procedure is used to find the cause of a lung problem. It can detect tumors, signs of infection, excess mucus in the airways, bleeding, or blockages in the lungs. It also can allow your doctor to take samples of mucus or tissue for other laboratory tests, as well as to insert airway stents, or small tubes, to keep your airway open to treat some lung problems.

The procedure is performed using a flexible bronchoscope or a rigid bronchoscope. Flexible bronchoscopy is more common than rigid bronchoscopy, and flexible bronchoscopy usually does not require general anesthesia. Before the procedure, you will be given medicine to relax you. A liquid medicine also will be given to numb your nose and throat. If you have low blood oxygen levels during the procedure, you will be treated with oxygen therapy. If you have a lot of bleeding in your lungs or a large object is stuck in your airway, you may require rigid bronchoscopy in a hospital operating room under general anesthesia.

After the procedure, you will be monitored to make sure you don’t have complications. You may experience a sore throat, cough, or hoarseness that will go away with time. If you had the procedure as an outpatient, you likely will be able to go home after a few hours, but you will need a ride home because of the medicines or anesthesia you received. You will need to follow up with your doctor after the procedure to get your results.

Bronchoscopy is usually safe, but there is a small risk for fever, minor bleeding, or pneumonia. Pneumothorax, or collapsed lung, is a rare but serious side effect that can be treated. Your doctor may do a chest x ray after the procedure to check for lung problems.

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Participate in NHLBI Clinical Trials

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) leads or sponsors many studies aimed at preventing, diagnosing, and treating heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders.

Trials at the NIH Clinical Center

Asthma sample collections

This study will look at the differences between cells from the airways of people who do and do not have asthma. Doctors will use a procedure called bronchoscopy to collect cells. To participate in this study, you must be between 18 and 75 years old, not have HIV, and not be pregnant or planning to become pregnant. This study is located in Bethesda, Maryland.

To learn more about clinical trials at the NIH Clinical Center or to talk to someone about a study that might fit your needs, call the Office of Patient Recruitment 800-411-1222.

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