CT-Guided Lung Biopsy

CT-Guided Lung Biopsy

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CT-Guided Lung Biopsy

CT-guided lung biopsy is a procedure to collect small samples of tissue from an abnormal area in the lung. During the procedure, an imaging method called CT (computed tomography) is used to show live pictures of the lung. Then a thin needle is used to remove the samples of tissue. The samples are tested in a lab for cancer and other problems. This sheet explains how the procedure is done.

Cross section of chest showing needle collecting sample from abnormal area in lung.

Preparing for the Procedure

Prepare for the procedure as you have been told. In addition:

  • Tell the doctor if you:

    • Take any medications. This includes over-the-counter drugs. It also includes herbs and other supplements. You may need to stop taking some or all of them before the procedure.

    • Are allergic to any medications.

    • Are pregnant or may be pregnant.

    • Are breastfeeding.

    • Have a chronic cough, new cough or other illness, or if you use oxygen therapy at home.

  • Follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before the procedure.

The Day of the Procedure

The procedure takes about 60 minutes. The entire procedure (including time to prepare and recover) takes about 4-6 hours. You’ll likely go home the same day.

Before the procedure begins:

  • An IV line may be put into a vein in your hand or arm. This line supplies fluids and medications.

  • To keep you free of pain during the procedure, you may be given anesthesia. Depending on the type of anesthesia used, you may be awake, drowsy, or in a state like deep sleep through the procedure.

During the procedure:

  • You’ll lie on a CT scan table. You may be positioned on your back, side, or stomach. Pictures of your lung are then taken using the CT scanner. This helps the doctor find the best place to position the needle in the lungs.

  • A mark is made on the skin where the needle is to be inserted (biopsy site). The site is injected with numbing medication.

  • Using the CT pictures as a guide, the needle is passed through the numbed skin between the ribs and into the lung. Samples of tissue are then removed from the abnormal area in the lung. The samples are sent to a lab to be checked for problems.

  • When the procedure is complete, the needle is removed. Pressure is applied o the biopsy site to help stop any bleeding. The site is then bandaged.

After the procedure:

  • You’ll be taken to a room to rest until the anesthesia wears off.

  • A chest x-ray may be done to make sure there was no damage to your lungs.

  • When it’s time for you to go home, have an adult family member or friend ready to drive you.

Recovering at Home

You may cough up a small amount of blood shortly after the procedure. Later, you may also have some soreness around the biopsy site. Once at home, follow any instructions you’re given. Be sure to:

  • Take all medications as directed.

  • Care for the biopsy site as instructed.

  • Check for signs of infection at the biopsy site (see below).

  • Do not bathe or shower until your bandage is removed.  If you wish, you may wash with a sponge or washcloth.

  • Avoid heavy lifting and other strenuous activities as directed.

  • If you plan to travel by air, ask your doctor when you can do so. You may be told not to fly for a few weeks due to the effect of pressure changes on your lungs.

Call the Doctor If You Have Any of the Following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting

  • Coughing up increasing amounts of blood

  • Signs of infection at the biopsy site, such as increased redness or swelling, warmth, worsening pain, bleeding, or foul-smelling drainage


The doctor who ordered the test will discuss the biopsy results with you during a follow-up visit. Results are usually ready within 1 to 2 weeks. If further testing or treatments are needed, the doctor will discuss these with you.

Risks and Possible Complications Include:

  • Pneumothorax (air leak in the lung, which may require a stay in the hospital and treatment to re-inflate the lung)

  • Bleeding into or around the lung

  • Infection in the skin or lung

  • Injury to other structures in the chest

  • Risks of anesthesia (this topic will be discussed with you before the procedure)