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Lung Biopsy

This webpage will give you information about a lung biopsy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is a 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).




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.


Author: Dr David Baldwin MD FRCP

Illustrations: Hannah Ravenscroft RM

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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