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What is a Bronchoscope?

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Updated September 11, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition:

A bronchoscope is an instrument that is inserted through the mouth or nose into the large airways of the lungs during a bronchoscopy. A bronchoscopy is a procedure that is done to diagnose and sometimes treat lung cancer.

There are two major types of bronchoscopes:

  • A flexible bronchoscope is a narrow, flexible, lighted tube attached to a camera. Flexible bronchoscopes are used more often than rigid bronchoscopes, and do not require general anesthesia.

  • A rigid bronchoscope is a narrow (approximately 1 cm) rigid tube. When a rigid bronchoscope is used, the procedure is done in the operating room under a general anesthesia. A rigid bronchoscope may be used when there is bleeding in the airways, to place a stent to open constricted airways, or to remove a foreign body that is lodged in the airways.

Using a bronchoscope allows doctors to look inside the large airways of the lungs for abnormalities, take samples (biopsy) of suspicious areas, remove foreign objects, and sometimes, treat cancers with the use of techniques such as brachytherapy.

Also Known As: flexible bronchoscope, rigid bronchoscope, fiberoptic bronchoscope
Examples:
During Bruce's bronchoscopy, his doctor inserted a flexible bronchoscope into his large airways to biopsy a tumor they saw on his lung x-ray.

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