If at some point in your life your doctor decides you need one, it would help to soothe any worries you may have if you know how a transthoracic lung biopsy procedure is done. A lung biopsy is done to acquire a tissue sample so it can be examined to determine if there is an abnormality present, such as lung disease or cancer. A transthoracic lung biopsy is also known as a needle lung biopsy because a needle is used to obtain the tissue sample by inserting it into the lung through the skin.
There are several reasons for a doctor to order a transthoracic lung biopsy, including wanting to investigate an irregularity seen on an x-ray or CT scan, or if there is a possibility of an infection in the lung or perhaps lung disease. Because a transthoracic biopsy is not invasive, does not require hospitalization, and has little chance of complication, it is recommended by physicians whenever possible.
If you will be undergoing a transthoracic lung biopsy, there are a few things that you should to to be properly prepared. First, your physician will explain the procedure and make sure you don’t have any questions. Once you feel satisfied that all your questions have been answered, you will have to sign a consent form permitting the procedure to take place. Your physician will also take a complete medical history, and in order for it to be as accurate as possible, make sure to inform him of any conditions or allergies to medications you may have, and any medications—whether they are traditional or herbal—you are currently taking. Certain medications, such as ones that affect blood clotting, may have to be stopped for a few days prior to the biopsy being performed.
On the day of your transthoracic lung biopsy, you may be given a sedative, enough to relax you but not to knock you out, as only a local anesthetic will be used. You will be given a gown to wear instead of your clothing, and an IV line may be placed on your hand or arm. Your physician will ask you to either lay down or sit up, depending on which position he considers will provide the easiest access for the needle insertion. The exact biopsy site may be confirmed by an X-Ray or CT scan and will then be marked on the skin. This area will be cleaned with antiseptic, and the local anesthetic will be injected, which you will feel as a quick sting.
Once the area is numb, the lung biopsy procedure will begin. Your physician will make a small incision in the skin above the biopsy site, through which he will insert the biopsy needle that will be guided between the ribs into your lung. During the procedure you will have to remain still, try not to cough, and hold your breath when instructed to do so. You should feel no pain as the needle reaches your lung, but you may feel a pressure sensation or some discomfort. Once the needle has obtained the tissue sample from the lung, it will be pulled out. Your physician will close the opening with adhesive strips or sutures if necessary, then a bandage will be put over it. A chest x-ray may be immediately done after the procedure to verify that the lung has not collapsed, which is a possible complication but very unlikely.
Assuming no complications, you will be allowed to go home—although you may need someone to drive you if you are still under the influence of the sedative—and you will be able to resume your daily routine. You will be advised to take it easy for a day or two and not do overly demanding activities during this time. In short, the transthoracic lung biopsy is normally a simple procedure that doesn’t call for much anticipatory stress or worry, especially now that you know exactly what to expect.