Want $100?

Suzi Starheim

Stick a tube down your nose

Senior computer technology major Brian Johnson poses with pictures of his lungs getting swabbed. He gets the procedure known as bronchoscopy about every six months for money he uses for “more leisure-type things.” Kristina Deckert | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Brian Johnson gets a few hundred dollars every now and then for letting doctors stick a long tube through his nose and into his lungs.

It sounds invasive, but the senior computer technology major said the procedure, commonly known as a bronchoscopy, normally takes an hour and doesn’t hurt him at all.

A bronchoscopy, according to WebMD, allows medical professionals to examine airways with a camera inserted through a thin tube. The throat, larynx and trachea are carefully examined to diagnose problems in order to treat problems such as chronic coughing and lung cancer.

But why would a student willingly do the procedure, without the anticipation of any lung diseases or problems?

Kay Stelmach, nurse manager of Cleveland Clinic’s clinical research unit, said the results of research bronchoscopies are used for making diagnoses of patients with lung conditions and for finding treatments for those patients as well. Stelmach said the results from one of Johnson’s more recent procedures were specifically used to learn more about asthma cures and prevention.

“This procedure is a diagnostic and therapeutic procedure used to make diagnoses and provide some sort of treatment,” she said.

Stelmach said an average research bronchoscopy takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes with 30 to 60 minutes both before and after the procedure for preparation and recovery. Stelmach said the total time from the beginning of prep until you are finished in recovery usually takes three hours.

Johnson said his three procedures over the past two years took an average of 15 minutes each even though the recovery time and screening process to take part in the procedure took much longer. Each bronchoscopy consists of a brushing and washing stage.

Johnson said during the washing stage, a scope is placed down into the lungs through the nasal passage, and saline fluid is inserted and then sucked up by the scope along with lung fluid.

“They go in through your nose with a scope with a fiber optic camera on it,” Johnson said. “The scope is approximately as wide as a pencil.”

Brushing, the next stage in Johnson’s procedure, is done by sending a pipe-cleaner looking object into the lungs through the scope. Johnson said the reason for this part of the procedure was to take samples of lung tissue but not a large enough sample to be considered a biopsy.

Stelmach said nearly 40 people per week take part in the clinical research procedures, and tens of thousands of volunteers take part in many of the research procedures each year.

BRONCHOSCOPY: The procedure

You are given a sedative to help you relax. You remain awake but sleepy during the procedure.

Your doctor gently and slowly inserts the thin bronchoscope through your mouth or nose and advances it to the vocal cords. Anesthetic is then sprayed through the bronchoscope to numb the vocal cords. Since you’re awake, you may be asked to take a deep breath, so the scope can pass your vocal cords.

The bronchoscope is then moved down your larger breathing tubes (bronchi) to examine the lower airways.

If your doctor collects sputum or tissue samples for biopsy, a tiny biopsy tool or brush will be used through the scope. A salt (saline) fluid may be used to wash your airway, then the samples are collected and sent to the lab to be studied.


If you have general anesthesia, you will feel nothing during the procedure. Oxygen is usually given through a small tube placed in your nose if you’re awake during the procedure.

You may be able to feel pressure in your airway as the bronchoscope is moved from place to place, which may cause you to gag or cough.

After the procedure, you may feel tired for a day or so and have general muscle aches. Your mouth may feel dry for several hours after the procedure. You may also have a sore throat and some hoarseness for a few days.

If a biopsy was taken, it is normal to spit up a small amount of blood after the procedure.

Source: webmd.com

Johnson, like all other volunteers for this procedure, had the choice of either being sedated during the procedure or going through the process while being alert but consciously sedated. Johnson said he chose to stay conscious for his own procedure.

“You can choose to do conscious sedation through an IV,” Johnson said, “but recovery takes a lot longer. Since I was awake, I was actually able to watch the monitor while the camera went through.”

Johnson said he was compensated each time he took part in the procedure and said he used the money for some extra things he wouldn’t normally buy with money from his paycheck.

“I would just use the money for more leisure-type things,” Johnson said. “I always had a job at the times I did these procedures, so I participated mainly just to have a little extra money around.”

While a full research biopsy procedure of the lungs would pay more than Johnson’s procedure did, he said he would not volunteer to take part in that type of procedure because it could cause his lungs to collapse more easily.

Different research studies choose to compensate participants differently based on the participants’ time and form of participation in the procedure. Stelmach said pay varies between procedures and really can vary anywhere from $10 to several hundreds of dollars.

Johnson said his procedure can be done approximately every six to eight months, but because he was a fairly healthy specimen, they allowed him to come in close to every six months.

“The healthier the patient, the better,” Johnson said.

Contact features correspondent Suzi Starheim at [email protected].