We have used flexible fibreoptic bronchoscopy using sedation and local anaesthesia in 50 children aged 2-19 years (median 10) using an Olympus BFP20 instrument. Indications were opportunistic pneumonias (n = 11), persistent atelectasis (n = 11), recurrent pneumonia (n = 7), miscellaneous lower airway disease (n = 7), recurrent wheezing (n = 3), haemoptysis (3), to diagnose infection or rejection of heart-lung transplants (n = 3), stridor (n = 2), suspected airway compression (n = 1), evaluation of tracheostomy (n = 1), and suspected foreign body (n = 1). In 43 cases (86%) the diagnosis was related to the primary indication. In five (10%) unrelated abnormalities were found, and five (10%) were normal. In 13 (26%) treatment was altered as a result of flexible fibreoptic bronchoscopy. Complications were transient respiratory arrest (n = 2), hypoxia (n = 2), pneumonia (n = 2), and laryngospasm (n = 1). All complications were followed by complete recovery. Our results suggest that flexible fibreoptic bronchoscopy is safe. Advantages over rigid bronchoscopy include greater visual range, fewer complications, and the avoidance of a general anaesthetic. Though invasive it can yield important diagnostic and therapeutic information.
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