Your child is scheduled to have a flexible bronchoscopy at Mass General for Children (MGfC). Learn what to expect and how to prepare for the procedure.

What is a Flexible Bronchoscopy?

A flexible bronchoscopy involves placing a small tube with a tiny camera through your child’s mouth and down into the lungs to look at the airways (tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs).

A flexible bronchoscopy helps doctors learn more about the following:

  • If the airways contain secretions (mucous) or a foreign body (an object that should not be in the lungs or airways)
  • If there are signs of infection
  • If an airway is blocked or narrowed

Your child will be under anesthesia for the procedure. Anesthesia is medicine that helps people stay asleep safely and comfortably during certain medical tests, procedures or surgery.

What Can I Expect for the Flexible Bronchoscopy?

Arriving at the hospital

  • Please check in at least 2 hours before the scheduled procedure time.
  • Your child will meet with nurses, a child life specialist and doctors from the Pediatric Pulmonary and Pediatric Anesthesia teams.

Procedure and recovery times

  • The appointment usually takes about 4-6 hours. The flexible bronchoscopy itself takes about 15 minutes.
  • The first 2 hours are spent preparing for the procedure. The procedure is held in the operating room.
  • You are allowed to go with your child into the operating room and stay with them until they fall asleep.
  • Your child will be in the operating room for 30-45 minutes.
  • For the remaining time, your child will recover at the hospital before going home.

After the procedure

  • When your child wakes up from anesthesia, they can have something small to eat and have a drink.
  • Your child’s pulmonologist (lung doctor) will discuss the findings with you and determine next steps
  • Your child may go back to their normal activities the next day.

Where to Check In - Patients Age 15 and Under

  1. Park in the main garage.
  2. Enter the hospital main entrance.
  3. Walk straight past the information desk. Coffee Central is straight ahead.
  4. Just before Coffee Central, turn left toward the Ellison/Blake elevators.
  5. Take the Ellison elevators to the 3rd floor.
  6. Look down and follow the blue line on the floor to the surgical check-in area.

Where to Check In - Patients Age 16 and Older

  1. Park in the main garage.
  2. Enter the hospital main entrance.
  3. Turn right at the front desk. Follow the signs to the Wang elevators.
  4. Take the Wang elevators to the 3rd floor.
  5. When you come off the elevators, follow the signs to the Center for Perioperative Care (CPC).
  6. Check in at the front desk of the CPC.

What are the Risks and Complications?

Risks or complications from a flexible bronchoscopy are rare, but they are important to know about. They include:

  • Fever during the night of the procedure. This happens in 3 out of every 10 children. This is not a sign of infection or illness. Giving your child acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin®) can help manage the fever.
  • Bleeding or infection. The care team takes every effort to lower the risk of bleeding or infection.
  • Coughing more during the night of the procedure. Your doctor will talk about what to expect before leaving the hospital.
  • Pneumothorax (air in the chest where it should not be). This happens in 1 out of every 100 children. Sometimes, a pneumothorax heals on its own. Other times, your child might need treatment at the hospital to let the air out of their chest.

How to Prepare

Your child should follow nil per os (NPO) instructions before any procedure or surgery with anesthesia. NPO instructions tell you when and what your child can eat and drink before the procedure. If your child has nutrition or medical needs or takes medications, the care team will talk with you about how to include them in the NPO instructions.

In addition to the care team discussing the NPO instructions with you, they are also listed below:

  • Do not give your child any solid foods after midnight the night before the procedure.
  • Up to 2 hours before arrival: You may give your child a small amount of clear liquids such as water, fruit juice without pulp (apple, cranberry) or Pedialyte®.
  • Up to 4 hours before arrival: You may breast feed your child.
  • Up to 6 hours before arrival: You may give your child formula to drink.

Rev. 2/2019. Reviewed by the MGfC Family Advisory Council. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.