Flexible bronchoscopy is used to examine the Airways of the lungs. This procedure is used for two purposes: to find out about a health issue, or in treatment of a known pre-existing health issue.
When a physician asks a patient to undergo bronchoscopy, it can be for many reasons. The common ones can be:
- Persistent cough, blood in cough, noisy breathing, hoarseness or breath shortness. The lung pathway is inspected through bronchoscopy and samples of tissue might also be taken for examination and detection of evidence of infection or cancer.
- Sometimes Bronchoscopy is needed in case of Atelectasis or the collapse of air sacs. The procedure may reveal air sac obstruction due to mucus, a foreign body, or a tumour. In some cases, stents are placed to hold the obstructed airway open.
- Bronchoscopy is also needed in case of an abnormality detected x-ray CT scan such as a spot, mass, or pneumonia, or any other unexplained changes that require further investigation.
A lot of preparations undergo before a bronchoscopy can be done. The physician may recommend a patient to undergo blood test to ensure that there are no issues in “blood clotting”, as bleeding can sometimes occur after the procedure. All “blood-thinning” medications (for example: aspirin) are stopped. Patients having a heart problem may require a go-ahead or intervention of a cardiologist in the procedure, more so, if they have a pacemaker or an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator. Previous allergic reactions to medical or dental surgical procedures also need to be disclosed. If a patient Is suffering from diabetes or has problems involving blood sugar, their medications require adjustments in some cases under the directions of a specialist. The patient is advised to not eat/drink at least 6 hours before flexible bronchoscopy procedure.
Flexible Bronchoscopy is done in a separate room or an ICU, after the administration of an intra-venous sedative to the patient that has a relaxing and calming effect. Blood Oxygen is continuously monitored using an Oximeter, BP and heart activities are also tracked.
Before a flexible tube is inserted into the throat, the back of the throat might be required to be treated with a local anaesthetic spray. This prevents gag reflex: the automatic coughing and gagging by the patients when the tube is inserted.
The bronchoscope is placed at either the nose or the mouth, then moved slowly into the back of the throat, through the vocal cords and into the lungs. The tube has a high-resolution camera at its tip that displays pictures on a video screen. The doctor examines the pictures and may tell you about the ongoing findings at each stage. In some cases, samples of blood or tissue might need to be taken using devices passed through the bronchoscope, some instruments may also be used to remove foreign objects or growths, to place a stent or to deliver radiation therapy into the affected area.
The Flexible tube bronchoscopy is a clean and safe procedure with little complications. The minor cases with complications can be of:
- Bleeding: can occur in case the airway is damaged by disease or was inflamed. Usually the bleeding stops without any need of treatment.
- Fever: it is common after the procedure and not any sign of infection.
- Myocardial Ischemia: or the strain in heart muscle can happen in case the blood flow is not sufficient into the coronary arteries. Persons with a history of heart diseases are required to take the recommendations of a cardiologist before going for this procedure.
- Reduced Oxygen: may happen during the procedure for a brief period and goes back to normal after the procedure.