Bronchoscopy is a technique of visualizing the inside of the airways for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. An instrument (bronchoscope) is inserted into the airways, usually through the nose or mouth, or occasionally through a tracheostomy. This allows the practitioner to examine the patient’s airways for abnormalities such as foreign bodies, bleeding, tumors, or inflammation. Specimens may be taken from inside the lungs.
A flexible bronchoscope is longer and thinner than a rigid bronchoscope. It contains a fiberoptic system that transmits an image from the tip of the instrument to an eyepiece or video camera at the opposite end. Using Bowden cables connected to a lever at the hand piece, the tip of the instrument can be oriented, allowing the practitioner to navigate the instrument into individual lobe or segment bronchi. Most flexible bronchoscopes also include a channel for suctioning or instrumentation, but these are significantly smaller than those in a rigid bronchoscope.
Flexible bronchoscopy causes less discomfort for the patient than rigid bronchoscopy and the procedure can be performed easily and safely under moderate sedation. It is the technique of choice nowadays for most bronchoscopic procedures.