Lung biopsy

A lung biopsy is a procedure to remove a small piece of abnormal lung tissue using a needle. The procedure is performed by a radiologist (doctor who specialises in x-rays and scans).

Are there any alternatives to a lung biopsy?

There are no alternatives to help your doctor to find out exactly what is causing the problem.

What does the procedure involve?

If appropriate, the radiologist may offer you a sedative to help you relax.

A lung biopsy usually takes less than three-quarters of an hour. It involves placing a needle through your chest wall and into your lung.

The radiologist may use an x-ray, CT or ultrasound scan to help decide exactly where to take the samples from. The radiologist will place the needle through your skin, between your ribs, and into the abnormal area in your lung. They will use the needle to take small samples of lung tissue (see figure 1).

Lung biopsy 

The samples will be examined under a microscope to find out the cause of your problem.

What complications can happen?

  • Pain
  • Pneumothorax
  • Allergic reaction
  • Bleeding from a biopsy site

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home after a few hours.

A member of the healthcare team will discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need.

You should be able to go back to work the day after the lung biopsy.


A lung biopsy is usually a safe and effective way of finding out about the problem in your lung.

Paying for your procedure

Lung biopsy costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own procedure the cost will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the procedure. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.


Author: Dr David Baldwin MD FRCP Illustrations: Hannah Ravenscroft RM

Copyright © 2010 Nucleus Medical Art. This information is produced by EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by BMI Healthcare. You may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information other than for your personal, non-commercial use. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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