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Lung Biopsy


A lung 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 tuberculosis.

Lung biopsy

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, radiation, or chemotherapy).

What Affects the Test

A biopsy sample that is too small for a diagnosis can affect the accuracy of the results.

A 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 CT scan. A bronchoscopy may also be helpful.
  • A lung biopsy may not be done for people who have:
    • Advanced lung disease, such as emphysema.
    • Bleeding disorders.
    • Heart failure, high blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension), or enlargement of the right side of the heart (cor pulmonale).

Other Works Consulted

  • Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.

  • Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRobert L. Cowie, MB, FCP(SA), MD, MSc, MFOM - Pulmonology
Current as ofNovember 1, 2012

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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