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Lung needle biopsy
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Lung needle biopsy

Transthoracic needle aspiration; Percutaneous needle aspiration

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.

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Lung biopsy
Lung tissue biopsy

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How the Test is Performed

The procedure usually takes 30 to 60 minutes. The biopsy is done in the following way:

How to Prepare for the Test

You should not eat for 6 to 12 hours before the test. Follow instructions about not taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, 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 medicines.

Before a needle biopsy of the lung, a chest x-ray or chest CT scan may be performed.

How the Test will Feel

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 biopsy needle touches the lung.

Why the Test is Performed

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.

Normal Results

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.

What Abnormal Results Mean

An abnormal result may be due to any of the following:

Risks

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 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:

Considerations

Signs of a collapsed lung include:

If any of these occur, call your provider right away.

Related Information

Community-acquired pneumonia in adults
Lung cancer - small cell
Lung metastases
Aspiration pneumonia

References

Given MF, Corr A, Thomson KR, Lyon SM. Percutaneous biopsy of the lung, mediastinum, and pleura. In: Mauro MA, Murphy KPJ, Thomson KR, Venbrux AC, Morgan RA, eds. Image-Guided Interventions. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 152.

Klein JS, Bhave AD. Thoracic radiology: invasive diagnostic imaging and image-guided interventions. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 19.

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Review Date: 7/20/2018  

Reviewed By: Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, VA New Jersey Health Care System, Clinical Assistant Professor, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, East Orange, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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