Bronchoscopy

A procedure to look at the trachea and airways

A bronchoscopy is a test to look at your windpipe, airways and take samples for diagnostic and treatment purposes

Why would I need a bronchoscopy?

Your consultant may recommend that you have a bronchoscopy for various reasons, from investigating a persistent cough to taking a mucus sample if you have a lung infection.

There are two different types of bronchoscopy:

  • flexible
  • rigid.

A flexible bronchoscopy is more commonly used.

Need to know

  • What happens during a bronchoscopy? icon plus

    If you're having a flexible bronchoscopy, a local anaesthetic will be sprayed into your nose and to the back of your throat to numb the area. You're likely to be given intravenous sedation to make you drowsy and suppress your cough.

    A bronchoscope will be passed up through your nose or mouth, past your larynx (voice box), down your windpipe (trachea) and into your airways (bronchi). A soft plastic tube will be put inside your other nostril to give you some extra oxygen. An X-ray may be used to guide the bronchoscope. Your consultant may take a tissue sample to be examined (a biopsy).

    The whole test usually takes around 15 to 20 minutes.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Like all procedures, there may be some risks and side effects involved. Your consultant will explain these to you and answer any questions you may have.

    You shouldn't eat or drink for at least four hours before your bronchoscopy. Make sure you don't smoke immediately beforehand either. You'll need to organise someone to help you get home afterwards.
  • After your bronchoscopy icon plus

    You should be able to go home a few hours after the test. Because your throat will be numb, you won't be able to eat or drink until your swallowing reflex returns to normal. You may have a slight nosebleed and, if you've had a biopsy, you may see a small amount of blood in your phlegm. This usually passes within 24 hours.

    You may have a sore throat or a hoarse voice but this should also ease within a day or so. When you get home, it's important to rest for the remainder of the day. Sedation lasts longer than you think. For 24 hours after your test, you shouldn't drive a car, operate machinery or drink alcohol.

Our head and neck consultants

We're proud to work with leading ENT and respiratory experts across a range of medical fields, whose skills are matched by their integrity and compassion.

A bronchoscopy usually takes place at a specialist unit, where you will be greeted and talked through the test by your consultant and a team of experienced nurses will support you throughout your procedure.

Our locations

From complex ENT surgery to diagnostic tests and minor procedures, we provide exceptional head and neck care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Contact us

Our helpline advisors can assist with enquiries about booking an appointment with a specialist. 

Call us on

020 7079 4344
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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