What is a bronchoscope?

A bronchoscope an instrument used during bronchoscopy. It is a flexible tube with an eye piece or video screen. The instrument allows the doctor to see the inside of the windpipe (trachea)and smaller air passageways of the lungs. This procedure may be done at the patient's bedside, in the respiratory laboratory, or in the operating room. The patient receives sedation and pain medication prior to the procedure and rarely recalls the procedure itself. The doctor inserts the bronchoscope through the mouth or nose and into the windpipe (trachea) and smaller air passageways of the lungs. If a patient has a breathing tube in place, the bronchoscope can be inserted through the breathing tube. With the use of the bronchoscope, the doctor can assess a blockage of an air passageway, infection or injury. Frequently, lung secretions or small pieces of tissue from the trachea or lung are obtained (biopsy) and sent to the laboratory to help diagnose the patient's respiratory condition.

Are there any potential complications associated with use of a bronchoscope?

Complications associated with bronchoscopy, while rare, include a temporary decrease in blood oxygen levels. This is protected against by use of extra oxygen during the procedure. Rarely bronchoscopy can cause a lung to collapse. If this happens, a chest tube may be needed to re-expand the lung.