A lung needle biopsy is a method to remove a piece of lung tissue for examination. If it is done through the wall of your chest, it is called a transthoracic lung biopsy.
The procedure usually takes 30 to 60 minutes. The biopsy is done in the following way:
You should not eat for 6 to 12 hours before the test. Follow instructions about not taking aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, or blood thinners such as warfarin for a period of time before the procedure. Check with your health care provider before changing or stopping any medications.
Before a needle biopsy of the lung, a chest x-ray or chest CT scan may be performed.
You will receive an injection of anesthetic before the biopsy. This injection will sting for a moment. You will feel pressure and a brief, sharp pain when the needle touches the lung.
A lung needle biopsy is done when there is an abnormal condition near the surface of the lung, in the lung itself, or on the chest wall. Most often, it is done to rule out cancer. The biopsy is usually done after abnormalities appear on a chest x-ray or CT scan.
In a normal test, the tissues are normal and there is no cancer or growth of bacteria, viruses, or fungi if a culture is performed.
Sometimes, a collapsed lung (pneumothorax) occurs after this test. A chest x-ray will be done to check for this. The risk is higher if you have certain lung diseases such as emphysema. Usually, a collapsed lung after a biopsy does not need treatment. But if the pneumothorax is large or does not improve, a chest tube is inserted to expand your lung.
In rare cases, pneumothorax can be life threatening if air escapes from the lung, gets trapped in the chest, and presses on the rest of your lungs or heart.
Whenever a biopsy is done, there is a risk of too much bleeding (hemorrhage). Some bleeding is common, and a health care provider will monitor the amount of bleeding. In rare cases, major and life-threatening bleeding can occur.
A needle biopsy should not be performed if other tests show that you have:
Signs of a collapsed lung include:
If any of these occur, report them to your health care provider immediately.
Transthoracic needle aspiration; Percutaneous needle aspiration
Ettinger DS. Lung cancer and other pulmonary neoplasms. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 197.
Silvestri GA, Jett JR. Clinical aspects of lung cancer. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus CV, Martin TR, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 47.
Updated by: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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