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Lung Biopsy

How It Feels

Bronchoscopic biopsy

The local anesthetic used in your mouth or nose generally tastes bitter and may make you choke. Your mouth may feel very dry for several hours after the biopsy. You may also have a sore throat and some hoarseness for a few hours. Sucking on throat lozenges or gargling with warm salt water may help your sore throat.

The anesthesia may make it hard to swallow. You may need to avoid eating or drinking for at least an hour after the procedure.

You may have a mild fever shortly after the biopsy, which usually goes away within 24 hours. If it does not, call your doctor.

Needle biopsy

When you are given the shot to numb your skin at the needle biopsy site, you will feel a sharp stinging or burning sensation that lasts a few seconds. When the needle is inserted into the chest, you will again feel a sharp pain for a few seconds. The radiologist may ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds at different times during the biopsy.

Open biopsy

The sedative will make you feel sleepy and relaxed. You will be asleep during the biopsy because of the general anesthetic.

After the biopsy, you may feel tired for 1 or 2 days or have general muscle aches. You may also have a mild sore throat from the tube that was placed in your throat to help you breathe. Sucking on throat lozenges or gargling with warm salt water may help your sore throat.

You may feel some discomfort at the biopsy site when you take a deep breath. The incision may itch as it is healing. Your doctor will give you pain medicine.

A bandage will be placed over the biopsy site. You may be advised to keep the biopsy site covered and dry for 48 hours. You may have a small amount of bleeding from the biopsy site. Ask your doctor how much bleeding to expect.

Risks

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 occur.
  • An infection such as pneumonia may occur, but usually such infections can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Spasms of the bronchial tubes can occur, which can cause breathing difficulties right after the biopsy.
  • Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias) can occur.
  • 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 linked to general anesthesia.

After the biopsy

After a lung biopsy, call your doctor immediately if you have:

  • Severe chest pain.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Excessive bleeding through the bandage.
  • Coughed up more than a tablespoon of blood.
  • A fever.

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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