Open lung biopsy

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Open Lung Biopsy

An open lung biopsy is a surgical procedure to obtain tissue samples of lung tissue. It is used to diagnose diseases such as interstitial lung disease, lymphoma, infections, and more rare causes of lung symptoms, such as sarcoidosis. After the tissue sample is taken, it is examined under a microscope by a pathologist to make a diagnosis.

Preparation for Open Lung Biopsy

Before the biopsy, a patient is typically asked to stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen, Coumadin and other blood thinners. Patients will be asked to not eat or drink after midnight before the procedure, as general anesthesia is used. The patient may undergo blood tests, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (EKG) or other imaging tests prior to the surgery. A course of antibiotics is usually prescribed to prevent infection.

Procedure for Open Lung Biopsy

Open lung biopsy is performed while the patient is under general anesthesia in a hospital operating suite. The chest or abdomen will be opened to expose the lungs. A sample of the lung tissue is then obtained using a specialized instrument or a biopsy needle. The tissue sample is removed and sent to the laboratory for examination. The incision is then closed by the surgeon.

Types of Open Lung Biopsy

  • Pleural biopsy – done outside of the lungs (in between the lungs and the chest wall)
  • Thoracotomy – done within the chest wall
  • Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery – done with the assistance of video imaging
  • Needle biopsy – done with a biopsy needle

Risks Associated With Open Lung Biopsy

Like any other surgery, an open lung biopsy carries certain risks, including bleeding, infection, and pneumothorax (air leaking out of the lung and into the chest cavity). Other complications may include, but are not limited to, airway collapse, need for additional treatments, or even death.

Why an Open Lung Biopsy?

Open lung biopsy is done when other diagnostic tests fail to provide a definitive diagnosis. An open biopsy needs to be done to confirm or discard a diagnosis, to make sure a patient receives the right treatment as soon as possible. It is sometimes the best and more reliable way to diagnosis certain types of lung diseases.

When to Consider an Open Lung Biopsy

An open lung biopsy should be considered in any medical situation where other diagnostic tools –like X-rays, CT-scans, blood tests – have not yielded a definitive diagnosis. In such cases an open lung biopsy may be the only way to properly diagnose and treat the underlying disease.


Open lung biopsy is a surgical procedure used to diagnose conditions of the lung. It is a necessary procedure when other diagnostic tools are not able to provide a definitive diagnosis. The risks and complications of an open biopsy should be weighed against the potential benefit of a timely diagnosis and treatment. Open lung biopsy should be seriously considered when other diagnostic tests fail to provide a conclusive diagnosis.