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Biopsy tests take a small amount of tissue from your body for further testing in a laboratory. If your physician prescribes a lung biopsy for you, he or she may suspect a lung abnormality that was not adequately diagnosed through other tests.
Lung biopsies are most often used to detect lung cancer, which may require surgery. They can also be used to diagnose sarcoidosis, a disease that causes inflammation in the lungs, or pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that causes scarring in the lungs. In rare cases, lung biopsies are performed when the cause of severe pneumonia is unknown.
There are several ways that physicians perform lung biopsies; however, it depends on the location of the tissue sample and any other health conditions you might have. Lung biopsies can be performed by:
Do not eat or drink anything for at least eight hours prior to your lung biopsy. Check with your physician to determine if any of your medications should be avoided for the days leading up to your scheduled test. Make sure to bring all of your medications, as well as any herbal or dietary supplements and over-the-counter medications, to the test with you. The surgeon performing a lung biopsy needs to know about your current medications, if you are pregnant and if you have allergies to any type of medicine.
Lung biopsies require a consent form signed by the patient.
During a needle biopsy, an anesthetic is used to numb the area of the skin where the needle is inserted. Although you may feel a brief and sharp pain when the tissue is extracted, most patients do not experience severe pain. During a brochoscopic lung biopsy, a numbing medicine is sprayed into the throat. An IV may be used to administer a mild sedative. Both open lung biopsies and video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery lung biopsies are performed under general anesthesia, although a video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery lung biopsy is a less-invasive procedure.
After your lung biopsy, a pathologist will closely examine the tissue sample to determine your diagnosis. You will be instructed to rest in bed and avoid lifting heavy objects for a specified amount of time. The length of your recuperation period is determined by the extent of your biopsy.
In addition, it is important to follow all instructions you are given relating to showering or bathing, as well as how to change the biopsy site dressing. Call your physician right away if you experience bleeding, redness, swelling or discharge from your biopsy site. In addition, if you cough up blood or have a full feeling in your chest, shortness of breath or chest pain, call your physician immediately.