Why get a bronchoscopy?
A doctor will use a bronchoscopy as a way to look inside of your airways. The procedure has both diagnostic and therapeutic uses. You might get a bronchoscopy if your doctor suspects you might be suffering from a lung disease or disorder or from an infection caused by bacteria or viruses.
A bronchoscopy can also prove helpful for medical staff if you have a piece of food or other foreign object stuck in your airway. Using a bronchoscope, a doctor can see the object using a camera within the bronchoscope.
The procedure can also be used to drain an abscess, widen a blocked airway or as a part of cancer treatment.
What happens when you get a bronchoscopy?
Whenever you take a breath, the air goes from your nose or mouth into the larynx to the trachea, which splits into your right and left main bronchus.
To perform a bronchoscopy, a doctor will use a bronchoscope, a thin and flexible tube with a camera and light, to see inside your air passages.
The doctor will insert the bronchoscope into either your nose or mouth. You will be under conscious sedation, meaning you'll probably be awake, but you'll be relaxed and won't be able to feel the procedure.
Once the bronchoscope reaches your area of focus in your airways, the doctor might take photos using the bronchoscope's camera. The doctor might also use small forceps to take samples of a tumor or tissue. A doctor might use a rigid tube instead of the flexible tube if you have bleeding in your throat.
There has been some advancement with this procedure, including an Endobronchial Ultrasound, which allows a doctor to see beyond your airway. Some research has found that an Endobronchial Ultrasound could be a potential replacement for more invasive approaches to diagnosing lung cancer.
Does it hurt?
The procedure is relatively painless. You might feel some pain if the scope scratches your throat on the way down. The lungs don't have pain receptors, so if a doctor takes a sample of a growth in your lung, you shouldn't feel that.