A bronchoscopy helps your doctor to see inside your trachea (windpipe), bronchi (branches of your airways) and in to some parts of your lungs.

Why do I need one?

Your doctor will do a bronchoscopy if they think there is something wrong with your respiratory (breathing) system. For example, if there is a shadow on an x-ray of your lungs, if you have a cough that will not go away or if you cough up blood and the doctor doesn’t know why.

What will happen?

You won’t be able to eat or drink anything for four hours before the bronchoscopy. You will need to wear a hospital gown and then you will be wheeled to the operating suite.

You might have an intravenous line inserted (a drip) and you will have lots of monitoring equipment attached to you. This means that staff can keep a check on everything.

You will be given a general anaesthetic so that you fall asleep and aren’t aware of the operation happening. The anaesthetist will stay with you during the operation. He is there to make sure that you have the right amount of anaesthetic and that your heart rate and blood pressure are normal.

A bronchoscope (which is a long bendy tube, about the width of a pencil) is passed through your mouth, down your throat and towards your lungs. Pictures will be shown on a monitor so that the doctor can examine the inside of your lungs. This will take 10-15 minutes.

If they find tissue that looks abnormal, they will take a small piece using instruments (tools) that are inside the bronchoscope.

Does it hurt?

After the bronchoscopy your throat may feel a bit hoarse or sore but this is normal. It won’t take long before you feel better again. If you have a biopsy you may cough up a small amount of blood the next day but this is nothing to worry about.

Last reviewed by Great Ormond Street Hospital: 12 January 2007