Lung needle biopsy

A lung needle biopsy is a test where a doctor puts a thin needle through the skin and into the lung to remove a sample of cells.

You usually have a biopsy to find out if you have lung cancer. This is where a doctor or nurse takes samples of cells or tissue from the abnormal area. They check the samples for cancer cells. There are different ways of doing a biopsy. This information is about having a lung needle biopsy.

You usually have this test during a CT scan. This helps your doctor find the exact area to take the biopsy from.

Your doctor gives you an injection of local anaesthetic into the skin to numb the area. Then they pass a thin needle through your skin into the lung and remove a sample of cells (biopsy). You may feel a pushing sensation when they take the biopsy, but it only takes a few minutes.

After the biopsy, you need to stay in hospital for a few hours to make sure there are no problems. You may also have a chest x-ray.

With this test, there is a small risk of air getting into the space between the pleura. If this happens, it can make the lung collapse. This is called a pneumothorax. Tell your doctor or nurse if you:

  • have any tightness or pain in your chest
  • become more breathless.

If you get a pneumothorax, it is usually minor and gets better by itself. If it does not get better, your doctor can treat it with a simple procedure. You would need to stay in hospital to have the procedure.