Patient Education - Lung Cancer Program at UCLA
yourself about lung cancer:
A lung needle biopsy is a method to remove a piece of lung tissue for examination.
Transthoracic needle aspiration; Percutaneous needle aspiration
How the Test is Performed
A chest x-ray or chest CT scan may be used to locate the precise spot of the biopsy.
If the biopsy is done using a CT scan, you may be lying down during the exam.
You sit with your arms resting forward on a table. You should try to keep still and not
cough during the biopsy. The skin is scrubbed and a local anesthetic is injected.
The surgeon will make a small (about 1/8-inch) cut in the skin, and will insert the biopsy
needle into the abnormal tissue, tumor, or lung tissue. A small piece of tissue is removed
with the needle and sent to a laboratory for examination.
When done, pressure is placed over the site. Once bleeding has stopped, a bandage is applied.
A chest x-ray is taken immediately after the biopsy.
The procedure usually takes 30 to 60 minutes. Laboratory analysis usually takes a few
How to Prepare for the Test
Before a needle biopsy of the lung is conducted, a chest x-ray, chest CT scan, or bronchoscopy
may be performed. Sometimes, you will be given a mild sedative before the biopsy. You must
sign a consent form. It is important to remain as still as possible for the biopsy and to
How the Test Will Feel
A lung needle biopsy is preceded by a local injection of anesthetic, which will sting
for a moment. You will feel pressure and a brief, sharp pain when the needle touches the
Why the Test is Performed
A needle lung biopsy is performed when there is an abnormal condition that is near the
surface of the lung, in the lung itself, or on the chest wall. The test is usually performed
to diagnose relatively large abnormalities seen on chest x-ray or CT scan. Most often, the
abnormality is not believed to be accessible by other diagnostic techniques, such as bronchoscopy.
Normal tissues and no microbial growth, if a culture is performed, are normal.
What Abnormal Results Mean
- Bacterial, viral, or fungal lung infection
- Cancerous cells (lung cancer, mesothelioma)
- Immune disorder
Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:
- Metastatic cancer to the lung
- Pneumonia with lung abscess
The risks include a collapsed lung, bleeding, and infection.
A needle biopsy should NOT be performed if other tests show that you have:
- Bullae (enlarged alveoli associated with emphysema)
- Blood coagulation disorder of any type
- Severe hypoxia
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Cor pulmonale
Signs of a collapsed lung include:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart rate (rapid pulse)
- Blueness of the skin
If any of these occur, report them to the health care provider immediately.
Reviewed By: David A. Kaufman, M.D., Assistant Professor, Division of Pulmonary, Critical
Care & Sleep Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY. Review provided
by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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