Bronchoscopic culture

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Bronchoscopic Culture

A bronchoscopic culture is a medical test that is ordered by a doctor to help diagnose potential infection in the lungs. The procedure is done by inserting a thin, flexible tube through the nose or mouth of the patient and down into the lungs, then collecting samples of mucus, saliva, or other specimens from the area. The samples are then sent to a laboratory for examination and culture.


Prior to the bronchoscopic culture, the healthcare provider will usually discuss the procedure with the patient and answer any questions. The patient should not eat or drink anything for at least eight hours before the procedure and may need to be sedated to make the exam easier to perform.


The procedure begins with the insertion of a bronchoscope, a thin, flexible tube with a connected lighted camera, into the patient’s nose or mouth. This allows the patient to have an up-close view of their lungs to collect specimens. The healthcare provider will guide the bronchoscope into the lungs, where they will use suction and tiny instruments to take a sample. This can be uncomfortable, but the patient should be able to feel when this is performed. The sample will be examined under a microscope to search for infection or other abnormality.


  • Mucus culture: Cultures of mucus from the lungs are ordered to detect certain bacteria.
  • Fluid culture: Fluid cultures are done to detect infection in the pleural cavity, where the lungs and the chest wall meet.
  • Biopsy: A bronchoscopic biopsy is done to examine tissue for signs of cancer or other abnormalities.


The risks associated with bronchoscopic culture can include slight discomfort from the insertion of the bronchoscope, the possibility of bleeding or infection from the specimens taken, and a reaction to the sedative if one is given. Some patients may have difficulty breathing after the procedure due to swelling in the throat, but this should resolve quickly.


Bronchoscopic cultures are ordered when a person is experiencing symptoms of infection in the lungs, such as shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, fever, or chest pain. This test can help to determine the type of bacteria or virus that is responsible for the infection, and it can also be used to diagnose and monitor several lung diseases, such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, and cancer.


Bronchoscopic cultures are usually requested when a person is already feeling symptomatic and other tests have not been able to pinpoint the cause. The individual’s healthcare provider will decide when to order the test. The results are typically reported back within several days.