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Lungs and bronchial tree

A bronchoscopy is a test done with a thin, flexible fibre-optic tube called a bronchoscope. The tube is inserted through the nose or mouth into the lung. A tissue sample can be removed for study, or biopsied.

Who is a candidate for the test? 
This test is performed when lung disease, a tumour, or an obstruction are suspected.

How is the test performed? 
With the person relaxed and lying down on a table or bed, a local anaesthetic is sprayed into the throat and a mild sedative is given. When the throat is numb, the bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth into the bronchi, or large airways in the lungs. The fluid is then removed and sent to the laboratory for analysis. Respiratory tissues can then be observed and biopsied.

What is involved in preparation for the test? 
Specific instructions will be provided by the doctor.

What do the test results mean? 
The test is normal if the trachea and bronchi look normal, and no obstructions or foreign bodies are detected.

Abnormal results may include:
  • an abnormality in the bronchial wall.
  • inflammation.
  • swelling.
  • sores, or ulceration.
  • a tumour.
  • enlarged glands or lymph nodes.
  • narrowing or compression of the windpipe.
  • dilated blood vessels.
  • irregular bronchial branching. The bronchi normally branch from the windpipe into both lungs.
  • bleeding, or haemorrhage.
  • lung cancer.
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 19/06/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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