A bronchoscopy is a procedure used to examine the airways (bronchial tubes). It is performed using a bronchoscope, which is a long, thin, flexible tube with a light and a camera at the end. It is used to investigate the cause of any breathing problems and, in some cases, provide treatment.


Prior to the bronchoscopy procedure, the patient might be given instructions which might include the following:

  • Avoid eating or drinking anything a few hours before the examination.
  • Take any prescribed medications.
  • Stop smoking on the day of the examination.
  • Refrain from using antihistamines and decongestants


During the procedure, the patient may be asked to wear a hospital gown and lie on a bed. The procedure is performed in an endoscopy department and usually takes about 30 minutes. A bronchoscopist or thoracic surgeon (who is trained in analyzing the lungs and respiratory structures) will use a bronchoscope to look inside the lungs. An anesthesiologist or a nurse anesthetist may be present to administer sedatives and a local anesthetic.

The patient may be asked to turn and bend in different positions to help the doctor get a better view. The doctor will use the bronchoscope to observe the inside of the lungs and obtain samples of various tissues for laboratory testing.


Bronchoscopy comes in two main types:

  • Flexible bronchoscopy – a flexible bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth and into the airways.
  • Miniaturized bronchoscopy – a thin, soft miniature scope is inserted between the trachea and the lung, which allows easier access to smaller airways.


The risks associated with bronchoscopy are low and include the following:

  • Bruising or soreness at the insertion site.
  • Infection.
  • Bleeding.
  • Allergic reaction to sedatives.
  • Breathing difficulties during or after the procedure.

Why is bronchoscopy performed?

Bronchoscopy is used to diagnose conditions that affect the airways, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer. It is also used to assess the progress of lung treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation.

When is it needed?

A bronchoscopy may be recommended if a patient has persistent respiratory problems, such as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. It is also used to examine unexplained bleeding in the lungs.