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Percutaneous Lung Biopsy: Before Your Procedure

Lungs in chest, with detail of needle inserted between ribs to area of lung biopsy.

What is a needle biopsy of the lung?

A needle lung biopsy is a procedure to take a sample of lung tissue. The doctor puts a long needle through your chest to do this. Another doctor looks at the sample tissue with a microscope to check for infection, cancer, or other lung problems. This procedure is also called a percutaneous biopsy.

Before the procedure, you may get medicine to help you relax. Then the doctor gives you a numbing medicine in the skin where the needle will go. Next, the doctor makes a very small cut in the numbed skin. This cut is called an incision. The doctor puts the needle through the incision into your lung. X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan pictures help guide the needle into the correct spot.

After the doctor takes a sample of lung tissue, they remove the needle. The doctor or a nurse puts a bandage over the incision and may put pressure on the area. You will lie on your side or stomach.

The procedure usually takes 30 to 60 minutes. But the needle will only be in your lung for a few seconds. You will probably go home several hours after the procedure.

It can take several days to get the results of the biopsy. The doctor or nurse will discuss the results with you.

How do you prepare for the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Medicines you get during the procedure will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • You will need to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. Your doctor will give you instructions.
  • Talk to your doctor when you have questions about what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital

  • Bring a picture ID and your Alberta Personal Health Card.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your healthcare team. You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb.
  • You will be asked to lie on an examination table, possibly on your side or stomach.
  • The procedure will take 30 to 60 minutes.
  • After, you will need to lie on your side for at least 1 hour. This can help stop bleeding from the area of the lung where the biopsy was done.
  • The doctor will take one or more x-rays of your lungs.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

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