Health Information

Open lung biopsy

Open lung biopsy


Biopsy - open lung

An open lung biopsy is surgery to remove a small piece of tissue from the lung. The sample is then examined for cancer, infection, or lung disease.

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • How the Test is Performed

    An open lung biopsy is done in a hospital operating room under general anesthesia, which means you are asleep and pain-free. A tube will be placed through your mouth and into the airway that leads to the lungs.

    After cleaning the skin, the surgeon makes a cut in the chest area and removes a small piece of lung tissue. The wound is closed with stitches.

    A chest tube may be left in place for 1 - 2 days to prevent the lung from collapsing.

    Today, most centers use a technique called video-assisted thoracoscopy, which uses a camera and tiny instruments to biopsy the lung. With this method, only two small cuts are made. There is much less pain and the recovery is much faster.

  • How to Prepare for the Test

    You should tell the health care provider if you are pregnant, allergic to any medications, and if you have a bleeding problem. Be sure to tell your doctors and nurses about all the medicines you take, including herbs, supplements, and those bought without a prescription.

    You will be asked not to eat or drink for 8 to 12 hours before the procedure.

  • How the Test Will Feel

    When you wake up after the procedure, you will feel drowsy for several hours. You may have a mild sore throat from the tube. You will feel some discomfort and pain at the site of the biopsy.

  • Why the Test is Performed

    The open lung biopsy is done to evaluate lung problems seen on x-ray or CT scan.

  • Normal Results

    The lungs and lung tissue will be normal.

  • What Abnormal Results Mean

    Abnormal results may be due to:

    • Benign tumors
    • Cancer
    • Certain infections (bacterial, viral, or fungal)
    • Lung diseases (fibrosis)

    The procedure may help diagnose a number of different conditions, such as:

    • Rheumatoid lung disease
    • Sarcoidosis
    • Wegener's granulomatosis
  • Risks

    There is a possibility of infection or an air leak into the chest. Your risk depends on whether or not you already have lung disease.

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Review Date: 12/10/2012  

Reviewed By: Robert A. Cowles, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon.

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