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Open lung biopsy


An open lung biopsy is surgery to remove a small piece of tissue from the lung. The sample is then examined for cancer, infection, or lung disease.

Alternative Names

Biopsy - open lung

How the Test is Performed

An open lung biopsy is done in the hospital using general anesthesia, which means you are asleep and pain-free. A tube will be placed through your mouth down your throat to help you breathe.

The surgery is done in the following way:

  • After cleaning the skin, the surgeon makes a small cut in the left or right side of your chest.
  • The ribs are gently separated.
  • Tissue is taken from the lung and sent to a laboratory for examination.
  • After surgery, the wound is closed with stitches.
  • Your surgeon may leave a small plastic tube in your chest to prevent air and fluid from building up.

How to Prepare for the Test

You should tell the health care provider if you are pregnant, allergic to any medicines, or if you have a bleeding problem. Be sure to tell your provider about all the medicines you take, including herbs, supplements, and those bought without a prescription.

Follow your surgeon's instructions for not eating or drinking before the procedure.

How the Test will Feel

When you wake up after the procedure, you will feel drowsy for several hours.

There will be some tenderness and pain where the surgical cut is located. Most surgeons inject a long-acting local anesthetic at the surgical cut site so that you will have very little pain afterwards.

You may have a sore throat from the tube. You can ease the pain by eating ice chips.

Why the Test is Performed

The open lung biopsy is done to evaluate lung problems seen on x-ray or CT scan.

Normal Results

The lungs and lung tissue will be normal.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may be due to:

  • Benign tumors
  • Cancer
  • Certain infections (bacterial, viral, or fungal)
  • Lung diseases (fibrosis)

The procedure may help diagnose a number of different conditions, such as:


There is a possibility of infection or an air leak into the chest. Your risk depends on whether or not you already have lung disease.


Putnam JB Jr. Lung, chest wall, pleura, and mediastinum. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 58.

Review Date: 11/4/2014
Reviewed By: John A. Daller, MD, PhD., Department of Surgery, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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