Study objective: To determine the risk of epistaxis and pulmonary hemorrhage due to fiberoptic bronchoscopy (FOB) and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) in the presence of thrombocytopenia.
Design: Prospective study of all patients undergoing FOB with BAL with a 4.9-mm-diameter bronchoscope after bone marrow transplantation (BMT) during a 6-month period.
Setting: A single BMT center.
Patients: Forty-seven BMT recipients undergoing 66 FOB with BAL. Thrombocytopenia (platelets < 100,000/ml) was present in 58 (88 percent). Platelets were < 50,000/ml in 44 (67 percent) and < 20,000/ml in 13 (20 percent). In the thrombocytopenic patients, FOB with BAL was transnasal in 37 (64 percent), transoral in 5 (9 percent), and via endotracheal tube in 16 (28 percent).
Interventions: Fiberoptic bronchoscopy with BAL using a bronchoscope (Pentax FB-15H) (4.9-mm diameter). In one case, a pediatric bronchoscope (Pentax FB-10H; 3.5-mm diameter) was used in a 7-year-old patient.
Measurements and results: The BAL was diagnostic in 22 of 47 patients studied (47 percent). Complications occurred in 7 of 58 (12 percent) thrombocytopenic patients (epistaxis and/or hemoptysis, 4; bradycardia, 2; bronchospasm, 1) of which all but 1 were minor and self-limiting. One life-threatening complication of severe epistaxis occurred during a transoral FOB in a patient with prior epistaxis (platelet count, 18,000/ml). One of 8 (13 percent) nonthrombocytopenic patients had hemoptysis. No patient had worsening fever or oxygenation at 4 h and no patient displayed worsening radiographic infiltrates suggestive of pulmonary hemorrhage attributable to the BAL at 24 h.
Conclusions: We conclude that transnasal FOB in thrombocytopenic patients was safe, being associated with minor airway bleeding in 3 of 37 patients (8 percent). In conclusion, FOB with BAL, even via the transnasal route, may be performed with relative safety despite the presence of significant thrombocytopenia.