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What Is a Rigid Bronchoscopy?

Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 18 June 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A rigid bronchoscopy is a medical procedure where a care provider inserts a rigid tube into the airways to see the structures from the inside and perform certain types of procedures like polyp removal. This procedure is invasive and must be done in a hospital or clinic with advanced facilities to provide adequate patient care and safety. A doctor may recommend it for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. The alternative is flexible bronchoscopy, where a soft tube is used, but this may not always be an option.

Care providers commonly place patients under general anesthesia with muscle relaxers for rigid bronchoscopy. This is more comfortable and much safer. Other patients may receive sedation only. The care team includes the doctor performing the bronchoscopy, a dedicated assistant, and another care provider to monitor the patient's anesthesia. For some procedures, additional personnel may need to be present.

Airway access with rigid bronchoscopy is excellent, even when the airways are clogged with blood or other fluids. The tube allows the doctor to insert a number of instruments to take samples, remove growths, or perform laser ablation of lesions in the airways. She can also simply take images all the way through the oropharynx, larynx, vocal cords, trachea, and bronchial tree. These may be useful for diagnostic purposes.

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Sometimes a patient has an airway obstruction that cannot be addressed with flexible bronchoscopy. The doctor may switch to the rigid procedure to access something like a foreign body in the throat. This procedure can also be useful for taking larger tissue samples or for addressing bleeding in the airway. Since rigid bronchoscopy is invasive and can be unpleasant, doctors do not usually recommend this procedure unless they feel it would be necessary and beneficial for the patient.

After rigid bronchoscopy, patients may experience some residual nausea and disorientation from the anesthetics and sedative agents. They may need to stay under monitoring for several hours or overnight. They can also experience soreness in the throat, especially if the doctor performed additional procedures, and may find it uncomfortable to talk or swallow at first. Patients who were under general anesthesia may also need to use an incentive spirometer, a device that encourages them to redevelop strength and flexibility in the lungs after being under anesthesia. If pain is persistent or it increases, the patient should report it to a nurse, as it may be a sign of a developing problem.

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