You may have some mixed feelings about needing a lung biopsy – what if it’s cancer? Will it hurt? Is it safe? How long will this take? Any anxiety you have is understandable. Hopefully this post will help you feel more prepared about your upcoming procedure.
Before Your Biopsy
If you are on blood thinners - like Coumadin, aspirin or Plavix – you will have to stop these medications before the procedure, usually several days before your appointment. Your doctor’s office will advise you on when to stop these medicines.
In order to receive sedation medication during your procedure, you will need to fast after midnight.
Day of Your Biopsy
After checking in and getting registered, you will get an IV. This is necessary for both sedation and for fluids. After talking with our nursing staff and the doctor, you will be taken to the CT scanner (or, less likely, the ultrasound suite). We will position you in the scanner. If you want sedation, you will receive it at this time. Most people feel relaxed or sleepy with the medication.
The doctor will clean off your skin, numb your skin, and then guide a biopsy device into the lung. Once the skin and the lining of the lung are numb, you may feel pressure, but will likely not experience sharp pain. Several samples will be taken. Each sample is about an inch long and 1/16” wide. Once enough samples are taken, the biopsy device will be removed. A plug may be placed to help seal the tiny hole in your lung. The procedure usually lasts about an hour, give or take 15 minutes.
After the samples have been taken, the biopsy device will come out. You will get bandaged up and get a chest X-ray to make sure your lung is OK. Then, you will go to recovery for 4 hours.
After Your Biopsy
When you are at home, take it easy for at least 5 days after the procedure. Your skin will likely be sore when the local numbing medicine wears off. Avoid too much hard coughing, to allow the tiny hole in your lung to heal. The 1/8” incision should be kept covered overnight with a band-aid.
Lung biopsy is safe, but issues sometimes do occur. If you have very bad COPD, you are at higher risk for having your lung collapse. If this happens, usually it is safe to go home, but there is a small chance that you may need to have a tube placed to get your lung to re-expand. Even if your lung is healthy, there is a chance that you could need a chest tube. People who need a chest tube usually stay at least overnight.
Bleeding is another possibility. If this occurs, you could cough up blood. Most of the time, this is not life threatening. Occasionally, a person could need extra help breathing or may need to stay overnight in the hospital.
Infection is very unlikely. There have been very few deaths associated with lung biopsy.