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Flexible bronchoscopy

What is a bronchoscopy?

A bronchoscopy is used to work out what is causing breathing problems. It is a procedure that allows the doctor to look inside your child’s airway (trachea and bronchi), from the mouth to the lungs.

During the procedure, the doctor may also take a small sample of tissue or wash out any oozing. These will be sent to the laboratory to look for infection and some other tests.

What happens before a bronchoscopy?

Information about how to prepare your child for the bronchoscopy is included in your admission letter. Your child should not have anything to eat or drink for the time written in the letter. It is important to follow this or your child’s operation may have to be cancelled.

The doctors will explain the procedure in more detail, discuss any worries you may have and ask you to sign a consent form. An anaesthetist will also visit you to explain about the anaesthetic. The method chosen for going to sleep depends on many factors including your child’s condition, previous experiences and what you and your child would prefer.

If your child has any medical problems such as allergies, please tell the doctors and nurses. Bring a favourite toy, book, or game to the hospital to help your child relax before and after the procedure. Make sure that you have written down the names and amounts of any medication your child is taking. If possible, bring the medications to the hospital.

What does a bronchoscopy involve?

Your child will have the bronchoscopy under general anaesthetic. The doctor will pass a bronchoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a bright light at the end) down into your child’s airway. They will then be able to examine this closely, suck out some secretions and perform a saline washout for tests. The images can be viewed on a screen during the operation and photos and videos can be recorded.

Are there any risks?

There are usually little or no side effects from a bronchoscopy, although this depends on the underlying problem. Your child may cough up small spots of blood following the procedure. Blood spots may happen up to 72 hours after the test. If your child starts to cough up large amounts of bright red blood or clots, please ring the hospital or your family doctor (GP) as soon as possible. Sometimes a child may have a fever, which usually settles quickly with paracetamol.

Anaesthetic risks

Every anaesthetic carries a risk of complications, but this is small. Your child’s anaesthetist is an experienced doctor who is trained to deal with any problems that may come up. After an anaesthetic, some children may feel sick and vomit. They may also have a headache, sore throat, or feel dizzy. These side effects are usually only for a small time and are not serious. You can read more about the risks of general anaesthetics for children on our dedicated resource page.

What happens afterwards?

Your child will wake up from the general anaesthetic in a different recovery room. Some children wake up straightaway but others may sleep for 1 to 2 hours or longer.

About 3 to 4 hours after the procedure, once your child is awake and sitting up on their own, they will be able to eat and drink.

Unless your child is sick, once they have had something to eat, have done a wee, and no other tests are planned, the cannula will be removed and you will be able to go home. In some cases, depending on the findings of the bronchoscopy, your child may be admitted overnight to be checked on, given antibiotics, and given further tests if needed.

When you get home

Your child may have a sore throat for a few days afterwards, which is normal. When you get home, you should give your child pain relief medicine, such as paracetamol if needed, according to the instructions on the bottle.

If, when you get home, you feel that your child needs stronger medicine, you should call your family doctor (GP) or contact us for over-the-phone advice.

Further resources

Please read our resource for more information about risks of anaesthetics.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the procedure, please call the Respiratory team on 0114 271 7400

Or you can speak to the doctor performing the procedure on the day.

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: RSP6

Resource Type: Article

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