Transbronchial biopsy

What is a transbronchial biopsy?

A lung biopsy is a test to remove a small piece of lung so it can be examined. It is performed to look for lung disease, cancer or another condition. It can be done with a special biopsy needle or during surgery.

There are several types of lung biopsy: needle, transbronchial, thoracoscopic or open. A transbronchial biopsy is done with a long, thin tube called a bronchoscope that is equipped with a tiny camera. The bronchoscope is put in the throat and down into the main airways of the lungs.

A lung biopsy may be done to:

  • Check an abnormal spot seen on a chest X-ray or other imaging test
  • To diagnose lung infection or other lung disease
  • Look for the cause of excess fluid in the lung
  • Find out if a lung tumor is cancerous
  • To see how far lung cancer has spread

You may have your test as an outpatient and go home on the same day. Or it may be done as part of an inpatient hospital stay.

For a transbronchial lung biopsy, an intravenous (IV) line will be put into your arm or hand. You will remain awake during the test and will be given medicine to help you relax. You may be given oxygen through a nasal tube or face mask. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing will be monitored during the test.

An X-ray or other imaging test may be done to find the exact biopsy site. Numbing medicine will be sprayed into the back of your throat to prevent gagging as the bronchoscope is passed down your throat. You won’t be able to talk or swallow during the test. Saliva will be suctioned from your mouth as needed.

The healthcare provider will move the bronchoscope down your throat and into the airways. Tissue samples will be taken through the bronchoscope using a needle, forceps, or a brush. The bronchoscope will be removed and the lung samples will be sent to a lab for examination.