Do all patients require supplemental oxygen during flexible bronchoscopy?

Chest. 2001 Jun;119(6):1906-9. doi: 10.1378/chest.119.6.1906.


Study objectives: Some respiratory units routinely administer supplemental oxygen to all patients during flexible bronchoscopy, but other units give oxygen only to those who desaturate (arterial oxygen saturation [SaO(2)], < 90%). We performed a study to examine both the requirement for supplemental oxygen and the effect of IV midazolam therapy on oxygenation during flexible bronchoscopy for patients with a known FEV(1).

Design: Data on the SaO(2) of patients during flexible bronchoscopy were collected prospectively for all procedures performed in our respiratory unit for the period 1992 to 1997.

Results: There were 1,051 flexible bronchoscopy procedures performed in which the patient had a known FEV(1) and was not receiving supplemental oxygen before the procedure. Supplemental oxygen was commenced during or immediately after the procedure in 151 cases (14.4%), while a further 101 cases (9.6%) had momentary desaturation (ie, < 20 s) not requiring oxygen therapy. The lower the FEV(1), the greater the risk of significant desaturation and the need for supplemental oxygen (p < 0.0001) [supplemental O(2) therapy was administered in 35% of cases if FEV(1) < 1.0 L, in 14% of cases if FEV(1) was 1.0 to 1.5 L, and in 7% of cases if FEV(1) > 1.5 L]. The use of low-to-moderate doses of midazolam as sedation did not affect the probability of the occurrence of significant desaturation (p = 0.204).

Conclusions: This study supports guidelines that suggest that all patients should be monitored by pulse oximetry during flexible bronchoscopy. Desaturation may occur at any FEV(1) level even without sedation. The majority of our patients did not require routine oxygen supplementation, especially the group with an FEV(1) above 1 L.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchoscopy*
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Oximetry
  • Oxygen / analysis
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Oxygen