A bronchoscopy is a procedure to look directly at the airways in the lungs through a thin, lighted tube (bronchoscope). The bronchoscope is put in the nose or mouth, moved down the throat and trachea (windpipe), and into the airways. A health care provider can then see the voice box (larynx), trachea, large airways to the lungs (bronchi), and smaller branches of the bronchi (bronchioles).
There are two types of bronchoscope: flexible and rigid. Both types come in different widths.
A rigid bronchoscope is a straight tube. It’s only used to view the larger airways. It may be used within the bronchi to:
- Remove a large amount of secretions or blood
- Control bleeding
- Remove foreign objects
- Remove diseased tissue (lesions)
- Perform procedures, such as stents and other treatments
A flexible bronchoscope is used more often. Unlike the rigid scope, it can be moved down into the smaller airways (bronchioles). The flexible bronchoscope may be used to:
- Place a breathing tube in the airway to help give oxygen
- Suction out secretions
- Take tissue samples (biopsy)
- Put medicine into the lungs
A bronchoscopy may be done to diagnose and treat lung problems such as:
- Tumors or bronchial cancer
- Airway blockage (obstruction)
- Narrowed areas in airways (strictures)
- Inflammation and infections such as tuberculosis (TB), pneumonia, and fungal or parasitic lung infections
- Interstitial pulmonary disease
- Causes of persistent cough
- Causes of coughing up blood
- Spots seen on chest X-rays
- Vocal cord paralysis
Pleurocentesis (also called thoracentesis) is done to help figure out what may be causing fluid to build up in the chest around the lungs (called pleural effusion.) The procedure involves placement of a needle and/or thin, hollow plastic tube in between the ribs and into the chest to get some of the fluid for testing. It may also be done to make patients more comfortable, by relieving some of the pressure on the lungs. This is typically a 30-minute procedure.