What Are the Risks of Bronchoscopy?

Bronchoscopy is a safe test, and serious complications are rare. Minor complications that can occur include discomfort while the bronchoscope is being passed through your nose, throat, and air passages and a tickling feeling that may cause you to cough. To reduce this discomfort, the doctor will spray a local anesthetic into your nose or throat to numb the area. Sedatives given before and during the procedure also help reduce any discomfort.

Although bronchoscopy is safe, in rare cases the airways can be injured by the bronchoscope (especially if the lung is already very inflamed or diseased) or a lung puncture can occur, causing an air leak around the lung (called a pneumothorax), which can lead to lung collapse.

Another complication is bleeding after a biopsy. Usually it is minor and will stop without treatment, but if needed, medication can be given through the instrument to stop the bleeding.

Publication Review By: Peter B. Terry, M.D., M.A.

Published: 22 Aug 2011

Last Modified: 20 Jun 2013