COVID-19: Vaccine information and additional resources | Medicaid: The program is changing and you must take steps to keep your UNC Health providers


Bronchoscopy is one part of the comprehensive diagnostic and treatment program for lung ailments available at Rex Pulmonary Specialists.

This test, along with transbronchial and endobronchial biopsies and bronchoalveolar lavage, can help physicians visualize airways, tissue and fluid in the lungs to diagnose any problems and, in some instances, provide treatment.

What is a bronchoscopy?

If your physician suspects the presence of lung disease, infection, fluid, an object in lungs or needs to open a blocked airway, he or she may perform a bronchoscopy. The procedure itself takes about 30 minutes and may involve IV medication to help you relax and a numbing agent for the nose and mouth. This will allow for a flexible tube to be inserted and guided down into the lungs. If your procedure requires a rigid tube, you will receive anesthesia. Including the pre- and postoperative periods, your visit will be about four hours.

Why do I need a transbronchial or endobronchial biopsy?

Your physician may need to take small samples of lung tissue to test for pulmonary disease, a lung tumor or to understand why a lung transplant failed. Similar to a bronchoscopy, the biopsy procedure involves using tiny forceps to aid in the tissue-collection process, which occurs as you breathe in and out several times.

What is bronchoalveolar lavage?

This complicated-sounding medical term is used to describe a fairly simple procedure that can help diagnose an infection, tumor, hemorrhage or unresolved pneumonia by taking a sample of lung fluid. During bronchoalveolar lavage, your physician passes water through the tube to pick up cells and bacteria. The fluid is then suctioned out and tested.

Are there risks involved with these tests?

Every medical procedure carries some risk of complications. For these procedures, risks include bleeding, infection, sore throat and, in rare instances, heart attack, breathing problems, vomiting and fever.

Because of the bleeding risk, your physician may request you avoid aspirin and ibuprofen products, as well as other blood thinners. Talk with your physician about all your concerns and how to prepare for your procedure.

Before all of the tests

  • Don't eat or drink for six to 12 hours before the test.
  • You may be asked to avoid aspirin, ibuprofen or other blood thinners.
  • You should arrange for transportation to and from the hospital.

After all of the tests

  • Your throat will likely be sore for a day or two.
  • You should go home the day of the test, but most people want to take the following day off to rest.
  • Risks include bleeding and infection, and - very rarely - heart attack, breathing difficulties, vomiting and fever.