A lung biopsy is generally a safe procedure.
Any risk depends on if you have a lung disease and how severe it is. If you
already have severe breathing problems, your breathing may be worse for a short
time after the biopsy.
Bronchoscopic and needle biopsies are
usually safer than open or VATS biopsies, but the VATS and open biopsies are
more likely to allow a good sample of lung to be removed. A good sample helps
determine what the lung problem is and what treatment choices are. Bronchoscope
or needle biopsies do not need general anesthesia, cause fewer problems, and
you do not need to stay overnight in the hospital. Your doctor will discuss any
risks with you.
- Lung biopsy may increase your chance of
developing a collapsed lung (pneumothorax) during the biopsy. Your
doctor may need to place a tube in your chest to keep your lung inflated while
the biopsy site heals.
- Severe bleeding (hemorrhage) may
- An infection such as pneumonia may occur, but usually such
infections can be treated with
- Spasms of the bronchial tubes
can occur, which can cause breathing difficulties right after the
- Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias) can
- People with severe lung disease have a very small chance of
dying from the biopsy. But this is rare. If you receive general anesthesia,
there is an extremely small chance of death from complications associated with
After the biopsy
After a lung biopsy, call your
doctor immediately if you have:
- Severe chest
- Excessive bleeding through the
- Coughed up more than a tablespoon of blood.
biopsy removes a small piece of lung tissue which can
be looked at under a microscope.
Lung biopsy results are usually
available in 2 to 4 working days. It may take several weeks to get results from
tissue samples that are being tested for certain infections, such as
The lung tissue is normal under a
microscope. No signs of infection, inflammation, or cancer are present.
Abnormal cells and tissue in the lung may
be due to active infection, certain lung diseases, or several different types
of cancer. If
lung cancer is present, results of the biopsy can
determine treatment options (surgery,
What Affects the Test
A biopsy sample that is too
small for a diagnosis can affect the accuracy of the results.
needle biopsy collects tissue from such a small area that there is a chance
that a cancer may be missed.
What To Think About
- Before a final diagnosis is made, the results
of a lung biopsy will be considered along with your past health, physical
examination, and the results of other tests, including a chest
X-ray or a
computed tomography (CT) scan. A bronchoscopy may also
be helpful. For more information, see the topics
CT Scan, and
- A lung biopsy may not be
done for people who have:
- Recovery from a video-assisted thoracoscopic
surgery (VATS) takes less time than from an open biopsy surgery.