Bronchoscopy is a surgical technique for viewing the interior of the airways using sophisticated, flexible, fiber optic instruments. The
trachea, main stem bronchi and some of the small bronchi of the lungs are viewed. In children,
this procedure may be used to remove foreign objects that have been inhaled. In
adults, the procedure is most often used to take samples of suspicious lesions and
for testing specific areas in the lung.
A lung specialist will spray a topical or local anesthetic in the patient's mouth
and throat. Then a metal or stiff plastic tube about six-inches long and curved on
one end is inserted to hold the tongue out of the way. An anesthetic is injected
through the tube, enabling it to run down the back of the throat, through the larynx,
trachea, bronchial tubes, and into the lungs. This will cause coughing at first,
which will stop as the anesthetic is increased. When the area feels "thick," it
is sufficiently numb.
An anesthetic jelly will be inserted into one nostril. When it is numb, the scope
will be inserted until it passes through the throat into the bronchus. The flexible
tube is less than one-half inch wide and about two-feet long. The outside end is connected
to several bottles on a nearby table and has an eyepiece. Some of the bottles are
connected to a small motor that suctions out and collects the fluids of the bronchi.
Other fluids can be introduced to flush the area and collect cells that may be analyzed.