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Bronchoscopy Testing for Adults

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This information was reviewed and approved by Ellen Volker, MD, MSPH (12/31/2019).

What is a bronchoscopy?
How do you get ready for the test?
What is done during the bronchoscopy?
How long will the test take?

What is a Bronchoscopy?

Your doctor has suggested you have a bronchoscopy as part of the evaluation at National Jewish Health. A bronchoscopy allows the doctor to look inside and sample the airways in the lungs.

Preparing for Your Bronchoscopy

  • Stop eating food 8 hours before your procedure. You may still sip clear liquids (only) until 4 hours before your procedure. Stop drinking fluids of any kind 4 hours before your procedure. If you do not follow these instructions, your procedure will be cancelled.
  • Notify your doctor if you take blood thinners such as Coumadin, Plavix, Lovenox, Pradaxa, etc., as you might need to hold these medications a day or so before your procedure.
  • Notify your doctor if you take any oral medicines or insulin for diabetes.

On Procedure Day

  • A responsible adult must wait for you at National Jewish Health during your procedure, and take you back to your residence after you are discharged. You will not be able to drive yourself or take a taxi/public transportation.  If you do not have someone with you to drive you home, your procedure will be cancelled.
  • Check in at the Front Desk, and they will direct you from there. If you have questions, or if you would like to cancel or reschedule your appointment, please call 303-398-1355.
  • Do not take the medicines your doctor has asked you to hold.
  • Do take any heart, blood pressure or seizure medicine, with a few sips of water, at least 2 hours before leaving for the test.
  • Do bring your inhaled medicine with you. If you have sleep apnea, bring your CPAP mask and machine with you.
  • Do not wear jewelry.
  • If you are diabetic, please bring your glucose meter, test strips, and a source of fast-acting glucose with you (such as glucose tablets or glucose gel).
  • If you use oxygen at home, even if only at night or while active, please bring a portable oxygen unit with you. You may need to use the oxygen for a while after the procedure. Occasionally, patients need to go home with supplemental oxygen after their procedure. In such cases, there may be an additional out-of-pocket expense.
  • You should not work, drive, or make any important decisions for the rest of the day.
  • We suggest that someone stay with you overnight.

What is Done during the Procedure?

When you arrive the nurse will explain what will be done before, during and after the bronchoscopy. If you have any questions, please ask. The nurse will start an IV. You will lie down during the bronchoscopy. The anesthesia provider will use your IV to sedate you and then place a temporary airway in your mouth to help you breathe. During the bronchoscopy a small, flexible tube will be placed through the mouth and into the lungs. Your doctor can see what the vocal cords and the airways in the lungs look like. Your doctor may do a lavage, which involves putting a small amount of fluid into the airways. The fluid is then pulled out. Your doctor also might remove a small amount of tissue from (biopsy) your lungs. The collected samples will be studied closely to help determine your diagnosis and the best treatment for you. You will be monitored closely during the procedure. Once the bronchoscopy is complete, you will go to a recovery room to wake up. You will be sleepy in the beginning. Your doctor will determine when you are able to go home. Your nurse will review your procedure report and discharge instructions with you, and send you home with a copy of each. 

How Long will the Bronchoscopy Take?

Plan on being at National Jewish Health for roughly 3-4 hours, although sometimes people stay longer. It will take approximately 1 hour to prepare you for your procedure, 1 hour to perform it, and 1 hour to recover afterwards.


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