What Is a Fiberoptic Bronchoscopy?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Sometimes referred to simply as a bronchoscopy, a fiberoptic bronchoscopy is a procedure that is used to identify the presence of tumors or inflammation in the area from the nose to the lungs. The process calls for the insertion of a small tube through the nose, past the trachea and into the airways leading to the lungs. As part of the procedure, samples of mucus or tissue may be collected, or images transmitted back through the means of a small camera. A fiberoptic bronchoscopy is often used as a process that aids in diagnosing pain and discomfort found in what is known as the tracheobronchial tree as well as the lungs.

A fiberoptic bronchoscopy can find the source of bleeding in the lungs.
A fiberoptic bronchoscopy can find the source of bleeding in the lungs.

There are several situations in which the use of a fiberoptic bronchoscopy may be recommended. One example is the presence of a collapsed lung. Since the collapse can often be due to some sort of blockage, the bronchoscopy serves as a means of identifying the nature of that blockage, making it easier to determine how to go about removing the obstacle and promote healing and proper function of the lung. Thanks to the small camera that can be used with the tube inserted into the airway, physicians can quickly ascertain what needs to be done in order to correct the situation and take appropriate action, rather than using the older approach of exploratory surgery.

A fiberoptic bronchoscopy can also be used to identify the source of bleeding anywhere in the airway or the lungs. As with the issue of locating and identifying the nature of a blockage that causes a lung to collapse, this procedure allows physicians to gain valuable information regarding the nature of the bleeding before any type of surgical procedure is scheduled. In many cases, the data obtained from the bronchoscopy makes it possible to structure the resulting treatment so that the patient experiences less pain during recovery and in fact can recover a little quicker.

When x-rays identify the presence of some type of spot on a lung, a fiberoptic bronchoscopy can be used to provide physicians with a closer view of the spot, making it easier to determine what type of treatment should be used. Since the procedure also allows for the collection of tissue for testing, it is also possible to utilize this method to collect a sample that can be checked for signs of malignancy without requiring a more invasive process. The data generated by using this method allows physicians to move faster in the process of diagnosing the nature of the spot and taking the appropriate action, something that may be very important if the spot does turn out to be malignant.

While a fiberoptic bronchoscopy is much less invasive than other methods, there are some risks involved. The patient will feel some discomfort during the actual procedure, and may even have an uncontrollable urge to cough. Medication to help the patient relax can sometimes help to minimize the discomfort and quell the urge to cough. The insertion or removal of the tube can sometimes trigger some bleeding, as well as the collection of mucus or tissue samples from the lungs or airway walls. There is also some danger of triggering the collapse of a lung or causing what is known as a lung leak if a puncture should occur during the course of the procedure.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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