What you can expect
Bronchoscopy is usually done in a procedure room in a clinic or in a hospital operating room. The entire procedure, including prep and recovery time, typically takes about four hours. Bronchoscopy itself usually lasts about 30 to 60 minutes.
Before the procedure
You'll be asked to sit or lie back on a table or a bed with your arms at your sides. You'll be connected to monitors so that the health care team can track your heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen level during the procedure.
You'll be given a sedative medicine through a vein (intravenously) to help you relax. You'll feel sleepy, but you'll still be awake, breathing on your own, and able to indicate a response to any questions your doctor may ask you during the procedure. Sedative medications often result in you having very little memory of the bronchoscopy procedure once it is completed.
A numbing medication called an anesthetic will be sprayed in your throat. Sometimes an anesthetic gel is rubbed in your nose. These medications numb the areas, helping to lessen gagging and coughing as the bronchoscope is placed into your throat. At first the medicine may taste unpleasant, but the taste will go away.
During the procedure
During bronchoscopy, the bronchoscope is placed in your nose or mouth. The bronchoscope has a light and a very small camera at its tip that displays pictures on a monitor to help guide your doctor in performing the procedure.
The bronchoscope is advanced slowly down the back of your throat, through the vocal cords and into the airways. It may feel uncomfortable, but it shouldn't hurt. Your health care team will try to make you as comfortable as possible.
Samples of tissue and fluid may be taken and procedures may be performed using devices passed through the bronchoscope. Your doctor may ask if you have pain in your chest, back or shoulders. In general, you shouldn't feel pain.
After the procedure
You'll be monitored for several hours after bronchoscopy. Your mouth and throat will probably be numb for a couple of hours. You won't be allowed to eat or drink until the numbness wears off. This helps keep food and liquids from entering your airways and lungs.
When your mouth and throat are no longer numb, and you're able to swallow and cough normally again, you can have something to drink. Start with sips of water. Then you may eat soft foods, such as soup and applesauce. Add other foods as you feel comfortable.
You may have a mild sore throat, hoarseness, a cough or muscle aches. This is normal. Warm water gargles and throat lozenges can help lessen the discomfort. Just be sure all the numbness is gone before you try gargling or sucking on lozenges.
Call your doctor right away if you:
- Have a fever that lasts more than 24 hours
- Have increasing chest pain
- Have trouble breathing
- Cough up more than a few tablespoons of blood