Font Size


What is Bronchoscopy?

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.

Last Reviewed 11/17/2017

Pneumonia Quiz IQ

Must Read Articles Related to Bronchoscopy

Asthma Asthma is a disease that affects the breathing passages of the learn more >>
Asthma FAQ
Asthma FAQs Asthma is a disease marked by inflammation of the airways that cause difficulty breathing. Ther are millions who suffer from this chronic disease, and this arti...learn more >>
Asthma in Children
Asthma in Children Children account for 47.8% of asthma-related visi...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Bronchoscopy:

Bronchoscopy: Procedure

Why did your doctor order a bronchoscopy? What were your symptoms of lung disease?

Bronchoscopy: Diagnosis

Please describe your experience with bronchoscopy, and the diagnosis.

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 »

Medical Dictionary