Bronchoscopy is the visual examination of the air passages leading into the lungs. The exam is done with a bronchoscope, a long, thin tube with a camera on the tip. The tube may be flexible or rigid, depending on why it is being done.

Respiratory Pathway
Resp pathway with sinus
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Sore and swollen throat
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Irritation of the airways or vocal cords
  • Bleeding
  • Hole in the airway or collapsed lung
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Infection

Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Chronic disease, such as diabetes or obesity



This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.


American Lung Association 

American Thoracic Society 


Health Canada 

The Lung Association 


Bronchoscopy. Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library website. Available at:,P07743/. Accessed August 29, 2017.

Bronchoscopy. Merck Manual website, Professional Edition. Available at: Updated October 2016. Accessed August 29, 2017.

Explore bronchoscopy. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Updated December 9, 2016. Accessed August 29, 2017.

Flexible Airway Endoscopy in Children. American Thoracic Society website. Available at: Published May 1 2015. Accessed August 29, 2017.

Lung cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  . Updated August 11, 2017. Accessed August 29, 2017.

6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance  : Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.