What Is a Bronchoscopy with Biopsy?

C.B. Fox

There are two main components of a bronchoscopy with biopsy. The first is the bronchoscopy, which is a simple procedure in which a doctor feeds a thin tube into a patient's bronchial tubes so that he can see any injuries or signs of disease. If the doctor runs across a section of suspicious tissue, a thin cutting device may be fed through the bronchoscopy tube in order to cut off a piece of the tissue for biopsy. Bronchoscopy with biopsy causes minimal discomfort to the patient while yielding valuable information for the patient's medical team.

After the sample has been taken in a biopsy procedure, it is examined in a laboratory by a pathologist.
After the sample has been taken in a biopsy procedure, it is examined in a laboratory by a pathologist.

A doctor will rarely know whether he intends to perform a bronchoscopy with biopsy before he makes a visual assessment of the inside of a patient's lungs. Suspicious areas that show up on x-rays or other non-invasive scans may indicate the possible need for a biopsy, but a doctor will usually make the determination to cut off a small section of the patient's lung only after examining the area with a bronchoscope. If an area looks like it could be cancerous, the doctor will take a small piece of the patient's tissue to be analyzed in the laboratory. The analysis of the biopsied tissue sample will give the patient's medical team information about whether or not the area is cancerous and how advanced any cancer may be.

Suspicious areas that show up on X-rays may necessitate the need for a biopsy.
Suspicious areas that show up on X-rays may necessitate the need for a biopsy.

In the majority of cases, the patient is conscious for the bronchoscopy, though many people are given medication to help them relax. The area around the nose or throat is numbed with a local anesthetic, and the doctor inserts the bronchoscope into the patient's airway. Inserting the bronchoscope through the nose allows the doctor to take a look at the upper breathing passageways, while using the mouth allows a larger tube and, therefore, larger tools to be used. The end of the bronchoscope is fitted with a small light and camera, making it possible for the doctor to see into the patient's lung.

A patient will likely have a sore throat following a bronchoscopy with biopsy.
A patient will likely have a sore throat following a bronchoscopy with biopsy.

In order to perform a bronchoscopy with biopsy, the doctor feeds the biopsy instruments into the patient's lungs through the bronchoscope. This way, the doctor can obtain a piece of tissue for biopsy immediately upon seeing a suspicious area, without having to perform another procedure. After a bronchoscopy with biopsy, the patient may have a sore throat and minimal discomfort that should clear up within a few days.

A biopsy that is inconclusive may need to be performed a second time.
A biopsy that is inconclusive may need to be performed a second time.
Doctors typically make a visual assessment of a patient's lungs before ordering a bronchoscopy with biopsy.
Doctors typically make a visual assessment of a patient's lungs before ordering a bronchoscopy with biopsy.

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