Diagnosis of a lung condition may require a biopsy so that the tissue can be analyzed further.
There are various reasons why a lung biopsy may be recommended, and there are different types of biopsy procedures available.
When a patient is expecting to undergo a lung biopsy, it can help to understand the nature of the procedure, as well as the risks and benefits.
Contents of this article:
Who will need a lung biopsy?
A lung biopsy procedure is often required to help diagnose a condition. It is usually recommended after abnormalities in the chest are found during a computerized tomography (CT) scan or chest X-ray.
The procedure may be required in cases where there is suspected cancer in the chest, such as lung cancer. A lung biopsy can determine whether any unusual masses are malignant, meaning cancerous, or benign, meaning noncancerous.
If a mass on the lungs is found to be cancerous, the lung biopsy procedure can determine the stage the cancer is at.
A lung biopsy procedure may sometimes be carried out to diagnose as well as determine the cause of a condition. For example, it may help to diagnose an infection or determine the cause of fluid collecting in the lung.
Types of lung biopsy
There are several different types of lung biopsy procedure:
Needle biopsy procedure
When abnormal tissue is located near to the chest wall, a needle biopsy may be used to collect this tissue. The advantages to this type of biopsy are that general anesthesia is not required and the whole procedure does not require a hospital stay.
This procedure involves a needle being inserted into the lung through the skin, guided either by X-ray or CT. The procedure can take up to an hour to complete and may require a patient to fast for up to 8 hours before the procedure.
This procedure is used when a lump is being completely or partially removed. When the lump is removed completely, the procedure may be referred to as a lumpectomy.
An imaging test will be carried out to find the growth or lump, and a wire or needle may be placed in the area for guidance during the procedure. This type of biopsy is performed by surgeons in an operating room. The patient is placed under general anesthesia, and the chest cavity must be opened to retrieve the tissue.
This procedure is used to collect a sample of lung tissue. A device called a bronchoscope is inserted via the nose or mouth to reach the lungs. This procedure can take up to an hour to complete.
The procedure for a lung biopsy varies depending on the type of biopsy being carried out. A healthcare professional can provide advice relating to the specific type of procedure a patient is undergoing.
For some types of lung biopsy procedure, the patient may be required to fast beforehand. A healthcare provider can advise if this is necessary.
The doctor overseeing the lung biopsy procedure should be aware of the medication that the patient is taking. They will advise whether or not these can be taken as usual before the procedure.
If the patient is pregnant, they may be unable to undergo certain types of lung biopsy procedures. This is because they require scans that can emit radiation, which may be harmful to fetuses.
Any important considerations, such as any existing allergies or pregnancy, should be assessed by a doctor before the procedure is undertaken.
Making plans for after the biopsy is often recommended. For instance, arranging reliable transport home after the procedure, particularly if a sedative will be used.
A short stay in the hospital may be required after a general anesthetic, and rest is required for a few days after a lung biopsy.
The recovery time required after a lung biopsy procedure will depend on a range of factors, including the type of procedure carried out.
In some cases, scans may be carried out after the lung biopsy procedure. These can be performed to ensure that there are no complications from the procedure.
For example, lung collapse is a risk after a needle-based biopsy. An X-ray may be carried out a couple of hours after the procedure to check for any air leaks.
Rest is recommended for several days after the lung biopsy procedure. Physical exertion should be avoided in most cases until a medical professional advises that it is safe.
Follow-up appointments are necessary to discuss results from the biopsy.
All invasive procedures are associated with some risk. These will vary depending on the nature of the procedure, as well as the reason for the procedure being carried out.
One of the risks associated with needle-based lung biopsy procedures is lung collapse. This is because when the needle is inserted into the lungs, it can create a gap where air may be released.
In lung biopsy procedures that involve placing a tube through the nose or mouth to access the lungs, a sore throat may be experienced afterward. Various treatments for this may be recommended, including gargling salt water or using throat lozenges.
The site of a needle biopsy may feel tender or sore for a few days after the procedure.
If there are bandages, these must be kept in good condition to avoid infection. After several days, these bandages can usually be removed safely.
Open lung biopsies often require hospitalization for several days, and risks may vary depending on how much lung tissue is removed. If an open biopsy is considered, it is best to discuss surgical risks with a doctor before the surgery.
If serious chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, or a fever is experienced a few days after the lung biopsy procedure, medical advice should be sought immediately.
In some cases, the recovery time for lung biopsy procedures can be relatively short.
Needle biopsy procedures can be a very reliable method for obtaining tissue samples and diagnosing growths as cancerous or noncancerous. The results can be as accurate as when tissue is obtained through other surgical procedures.
Lung biopsy procedures are not usually painful, and they have few associated risks.
A medical professional should only recommend a lung biopsy procedure if it will be of the most benefit to the patient.