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What is a bronchoscopy procedure, and how long does it take?

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Quick Answer

A bronchoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor uses a slender tube with a tiny camera to observe the patient's airways, and it generally takes about 30 minutes, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, preparation and recovery time can extend the total time to about four hours.

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Full Answer

A doctor may use bronchoscopy to investigate the cause of a lung problem or a persistent cough, and she may collect samples during the procedure for laboratory tests. A doctor may also treat a lung problem with bronchoscopy by removing a blockage in the airway or inserting a stent to open up a blocked airway, states the National Institutes of Health.

During bronchoscopy, the patient receives sedative medicine to prepare them for the procedure. The doctor inserts the thin device, known as a bronchoscope, through the nose and throat. The bronchoscope eventually reaches the airways inside the lungs, where the doctor is able to make observations and take photographs. The doctor may also collect fluid and tissue samples with the use of a saline solution, forceps or needles in conjunction with the bronchoscope, explains the National Institutes of Health.

Doctors commonly use bronchoscopes with flexible tubes. However, a doctor may occasionally use a bronchoscope with a rigid tube to remove significant blockages or treat excessive bleeding in the lungs, says the National Institutes of Health.

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