Percutaneous Lung Biopsy: Before Your Procedure

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Lungs in chest, with detail of needle inserted between ribs to area of lung biopsy.

What is a needle biopsy of the lung?

A needle lung biopsy is a procedure to take a sample of lung tissue. The doctor puts a long needle through your chest to do this. Another doctor looks at the sample tissue with a microscope to check for infection, cancer, or other lung problems. This procedure is also called a percutaneous (say "per-kew-TAY-nee-us") biopsy.

Before the procedure, you may get medicine to help you relax. Then the doctor gives you a shot of numbing medicine in the skin where the needle will go. Next, the doctor makes a very small cut in the numbed skin. This cut is called an incision. Then the needle is put through the incision into your lung. X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan pictures help guide the needle into the correct spot.

After the doctor takes a sample of lung tissue, the needle is removed. The doctor or a nurse puts a bandage over the incision and may put pressure on the area. You will lie on your side.

The procedure usually takes 30 to 60 minutes. But the needle will only be in your lung for a few seconds. You will probably go home several hours after the procedure.

It can take several days to get the results of the biopsy. The doctor or nurse will discuss the results with you.

How do you prepare for the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

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    Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
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    Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
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    Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
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    If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your procedure. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
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    Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
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    Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
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    Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • Bring a picture ID.
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    You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb.
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    The procedure will take 30 to 60 minutes.
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    After, you will need to lie on your side for at least 1 hour. This can help stop bleeding from the area of the lung where the biopsy was done.
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    The doctor will take another X-ray of your lungs.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter Q187 in the search box to learn more about "Percutaneous Lung Biopsy: Before Your Procedure".




The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.