Bronchoscopy is a procedure during which an examiner uses a viewing tube to evaluate a patient’s lung and airways including the voice box and vocal cord, trachea, and many branches of bronchi.

During the bronchoscopy, the examiner can see the tissues of the airways either directly by looking through the instrument or by viewing on a TV monitor.

Before the procedure begins, patients will be given medication through an IV to help them relax and feel sleepy. If needed, they might be given supplemental oxygen.

There are two types of bronchoscopes, depending on the patients needs a flexible bronchoscope or rigid. Prior to the insertion of the flexible bronchoscope, a local anesthesia with topical lidocaine is given in the nose and to the back of the throat. The flexible bronchoscope can be introduced either through the mouth or the nose. Once the bronchoscope is in the airway, an additional topical anesthetic will be sprayed into the airway for local anesthesia to minimize discomfort.

The rigid bronchoscopy is inserted by mouth only. This is usually done after the patient is under general anesthesia.

Flexible bronchoscopy rarely causes any discomfort or pain. The procedure usually takes between 15 to 60 minutes.