Frequently Asked Questions: Bronchoscopy

Here are some frequently asked questions related to bronchoscopy.

Q: Does bronchoscopy hurt?

A: No one’s going to say bronchoscopy is particularly comfortable, but it shouldn’t hurt. If you’re worried, work out a hand signal with your doctor ahead of time. You can raise your hand to tell him or her to stop putting in the bronchoscope until you can catch your breath and relax a little.

Q: Why should I have bronchoscopy instead of an x-ray?

A: Bronchoscopy allows the doctor to see inflammation (red, swollen tissue), abnormal cells, and bleeding that don’t show up on x-rays. It also has less risk and causes less pain than alternatives like surgical biopsy. The bronchoscope lets the doctor look directly at your airways, so he or she gets better information and you have to go through fewer tests.

Q: What’s the downside to bronchoscopy?

A: It’s not as quick or comfortable as imaging techniques such as CT scans. Also, bronchoscopy may not be able to get a tissue sample large enough – or from deep enough in the lung – to diagnose certain diseases.

Q: Will my regular doctor do the procedure?

A: That depends on the doctor. Sometimes your physician will refer you to a specialist who has more experience using the bronchoscope.

Q: Is this procedure done in a hospital?

A: Bronchoscopy is usually performed in an outpatient center at a hospital. Sometimes your doctor will send you to a day surgery center that specializes in outpatient procedures. Nearly all people will go home the day of the procedure, without an overnight hospital stay.

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