Bronchoscopy in the Emergency Department

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Publication Title

American Journal of Emergency Medicine


Background: Flexible bronchoscopy has been safely used for decades in ambulatory and critical care settings to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of tracheobronchial tree disorders. Although emergency physicians have the requisite skills to operate and interpret flexible bronchoscopy, no reports exist on the use of bronchoscopy by emergency physicians apart from endotracheal tube placement and confirmation.

Objective: The primary goal of this study was to describe the indications, outcomes and complications of flexible bronchoscopy performed by emergency physicians in an urban academic emergency department.

Methods: This was a single-center retrospective cohort study involving chart and video review of 146 patients over a 10.5-year study period. Patients of any age were included if they had been tracheally intubated or mechanically ventilated and underwent flexible bronchoscopy in the emergency department. After patients were identified, manual chart and video review was used to collect data on patient demographics, indications for intubation, indications for bronchoscopy, details of the bronchoscopy procedure, procedural findings, outcomes of the procedure, complications, provider training levels, and additional bronchoscopies performed after admission. The data was analyzed using descriptive statistics.

Results: 146 patients were included in the study and all bronchoscopies were performed or supervised by attending emergency physicians. After bronchoscopy, 24% of patients displayed improvement in oxygenation or lobar collapse while most patients had no change in clinical status. One patient had temporary hypoxemia after bronchoscopy. When another physician performed a subsequent bronchoscopy during admission, the findings were in agreement with the ED bronchoscopy 86% of the time.

Conclusion: At our institution, emergency physicians can safely and effectively use flexible bronchoscopy to diagnose and treat critically ill patients.



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Airway management, Emergency bronchoscopy, Flexible bronchoscopy