Virtual bronchoscopy: accuracy and usefulness--an overview

Semin Ultrasound CT MR. 2005 Oct;26(5):364-73. doi: 10.1053/j.sult.2005.07.005.


Multidetector CT generated virtual bronchoscopy (VB) represents one of the most recent developments in three-dimensional (3D) visualization techniques which allows a 3D evaluation of the airways down to the sixth- to seventh-generation. In comparison with real bronchoscopy, VB has some advantages: it is a non-invasive procedure that can visualize areas inaccessible to the flexible bronchoscope. Virtual bronchoscopy is able to evaluate bronchial stenosis and obstruction caused by both endoluminal pathology (tumor, mucus, foreign bodies) and external compression (anatomical structures, tumor, lymph nodes), can be helpful in the preoperative planning of stent placement and can be used to evaluate surgical sutures after lung transplantations, lobectomy or pneumectomy. In children, in some indications, VB can replace fiber optical bronchoscopy (FB) when this technique is considered too invasive. Finally, VB can also be used to evaluate anatomical malformations and bronchial variants. Virtual bronchoscopy is accurate but its accuracy is not 100% because false-positives and false-negatives occur. Virtual bronchoscopy contributes to a better understanding of tracheo-bronchial pathology. Fiber optical bronchoscopy will, without doubt, remain the golden standard but it can be expected that in the near future, the technique of VB will find a place in the daily routine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bronchial Diseases / diagnosis
  • Bronchoscopy* / methods
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Lymph Nodes / diagnostic imaging
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed* / methods
  • Tracheal Diseases / diagnosis