What is Bronchoscopy?Bronchoscopy is a procedure that allows the physician to directly see the interior passageways of the lower respiratory tract through a bronchoscope (a long, narrow, fiberoptic, lighted tube that is inserted through the nose or mouth). With the bronchoscope, the physician can see the larynx (voice box), trachea (windpipe), bronchi (large airways to the lungs), and bronchioles (smaller branches of the bronchi).
There are two types of bronchoscopies, characterized by the type of bronchoscope used: flexible or rigid. The type of bronchoscope used will determine the extent to which the bronchioles of the lung are seen.
With a flexible bronchoscope, the physician is able to visualize the tissue of the larger airways (trachea and bronchi) and also that of the smaller sections (bronchioles). The design of the flexible bronchoscope is advantageous because it can be maneuvered into the smaller bronchioles, providing more information about their condition than can be determined with a rigid bronchoscope.
In addition, the flexible, fiberoptic bronchoscope has interior channels that increase the capabilities of treatment options, such as delivering oxygen, suctioning secretions, obtaining tissue samples (biopsy), instilling medications, and laser therapy.
Other related procedures that may be used to diagnose lung problems include chest X-ray, computed tomography (CT scan) of the chest, bronchography, chest fluoroscopy, chest ultrasound, lung scan, lung biopsy, mediastinoscopy, positron emission tomography (PET scan) of the chest, and pulmonary angiogram.