Bronchoscopy is a procedure done by an Internal Medicine specialist to evaluate the trachea, bronchi and lower airways. The procedure is done with your pet under general anesthesia after he/she has not eaten for 12 or more hours. Most bronchoscopic exams take up to 25 minutes and it’s a low risk procedure, although anesthetic risk is always a consideration in a patient that is having difficulty breathing.
While anesthetized, a flexible digital endoscope is passed through your pet’s mouth into his/her trachea and down into the lungs. The Internal Medicine specialist is able to view an image of your pet’s airway on a digital video screen. A biopsy instrument or tiny brush can be passed through the endoscope for the purpose of obtaining small samples of the tracheal or bronchial wall. Often small amounts of sterile saline are flushed through the scope and into the lower airway, then immediately retrieved by suction. This is called a bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and allows the specialist to obtain samples of tissue and cultures of the lower lung or airway.
No stitches are required after the procedure and most patients are able to go home the same day. Sometimes medications are prescribed based on the initial visual impression of the airway, but may be changed when biopsy, cytology and culture results return in four to seven business days.
Bronchoscopy is recommended for patients with chronic coughing, difficulty breathing, or abnormalities noted on a chest radiograph.
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