A Guide for Critical Care Patients & Their Families
This handout tells about bronchoscopy. A
nurse will go over the information with you.
If you have any questions, please ask the
nurse or doctor.
What is a Bronchoscopy?
A bronchoscopy is an exam of the inside of
the lungs using a thin flexible tube called a
bronchoscope. Reasons for doing the exam
ξ find the cause for cough or
ξ determine presence of mucous and
removal of excess mucous
ξ find the cause of coughing up blood
ξ check for the cause of abnormal
ξ get mucous samples (washings)
ξ take tissue biopsies
ξ diagnose airway injury
ξ diagnose tumors, tuberculosis or
other infections, obstructions, or any
other abnormal findings.
Before the Exam
Before the exam, a nurse will give the
patient medicine through an IV. The
medicines will help to relax, reduce
coughing, dry the mouth and throat, and
reduce discomfort. The patient may or may
not have a breathing tube in place before the
procedure. Sometimes the breathing tube is
placed for the bronchoscopy and will be left
in place for several hours afterwards. If the
patient does not have a breathing tube, they
might also be given medicine that will help
During the Exam
A nurse will watch the patient’s comfort,
blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, and
amount of oxygen in the patient’s blood.
Nostrils and throat will be numbed with an
anesthetic jelly or spray. An oxygen tube
will be placed in one nostril. A
bronchoscope will be passed through the
other nostril, down the throat and into the
lungs. This should cause only slight
discomfort or a cough. As the scope is
moved, the doctor will numb the area ahead
of it by spraying with an anesthetic liquid.
If the Patient does not have the breathing
ξ The patient may swallow the
anesthetic jelly or spray, it is not
ξ If the patient feels the urge to cough
when the liquid is sprayed, it is OK
to do so. The anesthesia will numb
the area in seconds and suppress the
urge to cough.
ξ The patient will not be able to talk
while the scope is in the lungs. The
doctor will have the patient signal
with hands if uncomfortable.
It is common for the doctor to take biopsies
(a small piece of tissue), washings and/or
brushings. The patient feels no pain when
these samples are taken. X-rays may be
taken during and after the procedure.
The entire exam, from start to finish, will
take about 30-60 minutes.
After the Exam
If biopsies were taken, the patient may
cough up tiny spots of blood. This should
not last longer than the next morning. If it
does, let the nurse know.
ξ Eating and drinking may be limited
while the medicine wears off.
ξ The patient may have a sore throat.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©3/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4481.