Flexible Bronchoscopy
Flexible Bronchoscopy

A flexible bronchoscopy involves placing a special instrument with a tiny camera, called a bronchoscope, into the trachea (windpipe) and airways of the lungs. Bronchoscopy helps the doctor to see if the airways are blocked or narrowed, contain abnormal secretions (mucous) or a foreign body, and are in the right position in the lungs. The doctor may also wash a small amount of salt water into the lungs and suction it out so that it can be tested. Your child will receive sedation medication, a type of anesthesia, to help him or her relax and make the test more comfortable. When anesthesia is needed, there are special rules for eating and drinking that must be followed in the hours before the test. Bronchoscopy takes a total of 4 to 6 hours, including preparation and recovery.

What Is Flexible Bronchoscopy Testing?

In a bronchoscopy, a long flexible tube with a tiny camera, called a bronchoscope, is passed through the nose or mouth into the lungs. The doctor can see what the vocal cords, trachea and the airways in the lungs look like.

The bronchoscopy will be shown on a video screen and videotaped for the doctor to look at later. The bronchoscope also can take still pictures inside the airways that you and your child can look at and discuss later with the doctor. The bronchoscope has a small channel that allows the doctor to spray a numbing medication on the airway or vocal cords to keep your child comfortable during the test.

If your child’s bronchoscopy will be done through the mouth, the doctor will place a tube through the mouth and stop it just above the larynx or voice box. This tube, called a laryngeal mask, keeps the mouth open and allows the doctor to pass the bronchoscope through it to look at the airways and to give anesthetic gases. In some cases, a child will have an endotracheal tube placed instead. The endotracheal tube is placed through the mouth and stops in the trachea (windpipe.) Like the laryngeal mask, this tube allows the doctor to pass the bronchoscope through it to look at the airways and give anesthetic gases. Your doctor will decide whether to use a laryngeal mask or an endotracheal tube based on your child’s medical needs.

The doctor might also do a bronchoalveolar lavage , in which a small amount of saline or sterile salt water is sprayed into the airways through the channel in the bronchoscope, and then suctioned back out into a sterile container. The saline then contains cells from the airways of your child’s lungs that can be looked at under a microscope to diagnose infections or other lung problems. In a very small number of cases, the doctor might also do a biopsy , in which tiny pieces of tissue are taken from inside the lungs to be looked at under a microscope.

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