Bronchoscopy

This minimally invasive procedure lets us biopsy and take a look at the airways and lungs without surgery.

When the doctor wants to biopsy or look at your airways or lungs to diagnose or treat lung cancer or mesothelioma, it doesn’t always mean you’ll need surgery. In some cases, our interventional pulmonologists may perform a bronchoscopy.

This minimally invasive procedure uses a long, hollow, flexible tube called a bronchoscope. The bronchoscope often has a light and camera at the end of it. This camera can take video or photos, including in 3-D. You doctor also can use it to biopsy -- or take tissue samples of-- tumors or abnormal tissue within your lungs.

These procedures do not require open surgery, any cuts or incisions, or hospital stays.

What can I expect during a bronchoscopy?

The doctor will insert the bronchoscope into your mouth and thread it down into your lungs. We use moderate sedation to make you comfortable; you will not be asleep under general anesthesia. Bronchoscopy doesn’t hurt because there are no pain fibers in the lungs. The only response to the procedure may be coughing. The doctor may give you medication to minimize this reflex.

How is bronchoscopy used to biopsy the lungs?

We use many types of bronchoscopy to see into the airways and take tissue samples. Our interventional pulmonologists offer:

Autofluorescence bronchoscopy

This procedure uses a bronchoscope with a camera and special light attached at the end. The fluorescent light makes healthy tissue look green and diseased tissue look red. This technique also allows the doctor to take a sample of any abnormal tissue to be sent away for further testing.

Cytology brushing

This technique uses a flexible brush that the doctor passes through the bronchoscope. When in place near a lesion,the doctor uses a brushing motion to pick up loose cells and rub cells off a tumor. We then send those cells off for testing.

Electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy (ENB)

Electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy can be used to locate tumors and take tissue samples. This advanced imaging technology works like a GPS system in a car. It provides the doctor with 3-D virtual roadmaps of the lungs. We use the superDimension system at Henry Ford.

Endobronchial biopsy

During an endobronchial biopsy, the doctor will insert flexible forceps through the bronchoscope to take a tissue sample to be sent away for further testing.

Endobronchial ultrasound

Ultrasound is a type of imaging test that uses sound waves to take pictures inside the body. During this procedure, the doctor uses a bronchoscope with an ultrasound probe at the end. If the test detects any abnormal tissues, the doctor can take a sample to be sent away for further testing.

Transbronchial biopsy

Unlike an endobronchial biopsy, the doctor cannot see the tumor with the bronchoscope. Instead, the doctor will use previously taken chest X-rays or CT scans, along with fluoroscopy, a type of X-ray that takes video of moving structures inside the body, to find the tumor. The doctor will then insert flexible forceps through the bronchoscope and take a tissue sample to be sent away for further testing.

Transbronchial needle aspiration biopsy

This procedure allows the doctor to take tissue samples from the lymph nodes in the lungs. Before the advancements of interventional pulmonology made bronchoscopy possible, this procedure was much more invasive, requiring the insertion of a large needle through the chest. But with transbronchial needle aspiration biopsy, the doctor can insert a small needle through a bronchoscope using CT scans and X-rays of the chest as a guide.

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