Bronchoscopy and biopsy

A bronchoscope is a thin, flexible tube that a doctor or nurse uses to look inside your airways and lungs and collect samples of cells.

You usually have a biopsy to find out if you have cancer in the lung or airways. This is where a doctor or nurse takes a sample of cells or tissue from the abnormal area. They check the samples for cancer cells. There are different ways of doing a biopsy. This information is about collecting biopsies during a bronchoscopy.

During a bronchoscopy, a doctor or nurse uses a thin, flexible tube (bronchoscope) to look inside your airways (bronchus) and lungs. It has a tiny camera on the end. This shows a picture of the area on a screen. The doctor or nurse can take biopsies from your lung or airways using the bronchoscope.

Before the test, you should not eat or drink anything for a few hours. The nurse or doctor gives you a sedative to help you relax. They also spray a local anaesthetic on to the back of your throat to numb it.

After this, the doctor or nurse gently passes the bronchoscope through your nose or mouth and down into your windpipe (trachea).

This illustration shows the respiratory system

A bronchoscopy usually takes about 15 minutes. It will take longer if you are having biopsies taken.

After the bronchoscopy, you should not eat or drink for at least an hour. You can go home as soon as the sedation has worn off. You should not drive for 24 hours after having the sedation, so someone will need to collect you from the hospital. You may have a sore throat for a couple of days.