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Bronchoscopy

Bronchoscopy Introduction

Bronchoscopy allows a doctor to examine the inside of a person's airway and lungs for any abnormality such as foreign bodies, bleeding, tumors, or inflammation. The doctor uses either a rigid bronchoscope or flexible bronchoscope.

  • Gustav Killian, a German laryngologist, performed the first bronchoscopy in 1897. From then until the 1970s, doctors evaluated people's airways using a rigid bronchoscope.
  • In the early 1970s, Ikeda introduced the flexible fiberoptic bronchoscope, which greatly enhanced the potential for the procedure. Since then, bronchoscopy has become an increasingly important diagnostic and therapeutic tool for the management of chest diseases. It is now perhaps the most common invasive procedure in the study and care of lungs. Doctors use it to:
    • see abnormalities of the airway
    • obtain samples of an abnormality or specimens in undiagnosed infections
    • obtain tissue specimens of the lung in a variety of disorders
    • evaluate a person who has bleeding in the lungs, possible lung cancer, a chronic cough, or a collapsed lung
    • remove foreign objects lodged in the airway
    • open the spaces of a blocked airway
    •  treat asthma and emphysema
    • treat post-operative air leaks in the lung

Rigid bronchoscopy: A rigid bronchoscope is a straight, hollow, metal tube. Doctors perform rigid bronchoscopy less often today, but it remains the procedure of choice for removing foreign material and for several other treatments. Rigid bronchoscopy also becomes useful when bleeding interferes with seeing the area.

Flexible bronchoscopy: A flexible bronchoscope is a long thin tube that contains small clear fibers that transmit light images as the tube bends. Its flexibility allows this instrument to reach further points in an airway than rigid bronchoscopy. The procedure can be performed easily and safely under local anesthesia.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/21/2013

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Patient Comments & Reviews

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Bronchoscopy: Procedure

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Airway Foreign Body »

The human body has numerous defense mechanisms to keep the airway free and clear of extraneous matter.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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