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Lung Biopsy

A lung biopsy removes a small piece of lung tissue which can be looked at under a microscope. The biopsy can be done in four ways. The method used depends on where the sample will be taken from and your overall health.

  • Bronchoscopic biopsy. This type of biopsy uses a lighted instrument (bronchoscope) inserted through the mouth or nose and into the airway to remove a lung tissue sample. This method may be used if an infectious disease is suspected, if the abnormal lung tissue is located next to the breathing tubes (bronchi), or before trying more invasive methods, such as an open lung biopsy.
  • Needle biopsy. A needle biopsy uses a long needle inserted through the chest wall to remove a sample of lung tissue. This method is used if the abnormal lung tissue is located close to the chest wall. A computed tomography (CT) scan, an ultrasound, or fluoroscopy are usually used to guide the needle to the abnormal tissue.
  • Open biopsy. An open biopsy uses surgery to make a cut (incision) between the ribs and remove a sample of lung tissue. An open biopsy is usually done when the other methods of lung biopsy have not been successful, cannot be used, or when a larger piece of lung tissue is needed for a diagnosis.
  • Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). VATS uses a scope (called a thoracoscope) passed through a small incision in the chest to remove a sample of lung tissue.

Why It Is Done

A lung biopsy is done to:

  • Diagnose certain lung conditions, such as sarcoidosis or pulmonary fibrosis. In rare cases, a lung biopsy may be done for severe pneumonia, especially if the diagnosis is not clear.
  • Diagnose suspected lung cancer.
  • Evaluate any abnormalities seen on other tests, such as a chest X-ray or a CT scan. A lung biopsy is usually done when other tests can't identify the cause of lung problems.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 01, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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