What is a lung biopsy?

Your healthcare professional might want to remove a small piece of tissue or some cells for testing. This is called a biopsy.

A lung biopsy is when tissue or cells are taken from the lungs. 

What’s it used for?

If an abnormal area in the lung is seen on a scan, a biopsy is one way to take small samples for testing to find out what it is.

How can I prepare for a lung biopsy?

You’ll get a letter from the hospital with instructions. You’ll also get an information sheet that tells you more about the procedure and the risks involved. Make sure you read it carefully. 

You’ll need to have a blood test before your lung biopsy. You’ll also be asked not to eat for 4 hours before your test.

What happens during a lung biopsy?

A thin needle is inserted through your skin into your lung using a CT scan or ultrasound as a guide.  

A small amount of tissue will be removed. This doesn’t usually hurt. After the procedure, you’ll need to recover for 4-5 hours before going home, and rest for 24 hours before going back to work. 

Video-assisted thoracoscopy (VATS)

A video-assisted thoracoscopy or VATS is a type of biopsy that involves surgery under a general anaesthetic (you won’t be aware of anything happening) to get a larger piece of lung tissue.

The surgeon will insert a thin tube called a thorascope to remove tissue samples from your lungs.

At the end of the surgery, you will have a chest drain inserted to allow fluid and air to drain from the lungs.

What are the risks?

There is a small chance that you will get an air leak (a pneumothorax). If you get a pneumothorax, it usually gets better by itself.  

Your healthcare professional should explain all the risks to you in detail before you have your lung biopsy. 

When will I get the results?

You won’t get the results straight away. You’ll be given an appointment with your doctor to discuss the results and what happens next.

Results are not the same as a diagnosis

You may get your test results by post. Remember that these results are not the same as a diagnosis. You should still talk to your healthcare professional about them, so you can get help in understanding what they mean. They can answer any questions you have.

If you haven’t got a paper copy of your results, ask your doctor for them. They’re helpful to take with you to other hospital appointments. 

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