Date: February 16, 2023

Author: Jeremy Rodriguez


Doctors perform lung biopsies to remove samples of lung tissue and to determine if lung disease or lung cancer is present. However, there are a few lung biopsy risks. Elderly patients may wonder what the risks of lung biopsy in the elderly are. In this post, we will review why someone would need a lung biopsy, the types of lung biopsies — including the most common, which is a bronchial scope biopsy — and the potential complications from a lung biopsy.

Potential Reasons for a Lung Biopsy

Doctors may perform a lung biopsy for one of the following reasons:

  • An abnormal spot appears on the lung through a chest X-ray or other imaging test.

  • They want to diagnose a lung disease, such as a lung infection.

  • The lungs have fluid buildup and they want to look for potential causes.

  • They want to examine a lung tumor to determine whether it’s cancerous.

  • The patient has lung cancer, and they want to determine staging, or how far it has spread.

Now that we know more about the reasons for a lung biopsy let’s take a look at the types of lung biopsies.

Types of Lung Biopsies

Doctors can perform lung biopsies through various methods, which depend on general health, the type of lung problem, and the location of the problem in the lung. Types of lung biopsies include:

  • Needle biopsy. The doctor administers a local anesthetic and then guides a needle through the chest wall into suspicious areas to obtain a tissue sample.

  • Open biopsy. The doctor administers a general anesthetic, makes an incision on the chest, and then surgically removes a piece of lung tissue. Depending on the results, more extensive surgery such as removing a lung lobe may be necessary. Since this is a surgical procedure, this type of lung biopsy requires a hospital stay.

  • Thoracoscopic biopsy. The doctor administers a general anesthetic and then inserts an endoscope through the chest wall into the chest cavity. Various biopsy tools can then be inserted through the endoscope to obtain lung tissue. In some cases, the doctor may decide to perform therapeutic procedures such as removing a nodule or other tissue lesions.

  • Transbronchial biopsy. A bronchoscopy lung biopsy is one of the most common types of lung biopsies. A lung biopsy via bronchoscopy is achieved by inserting a fiberoptic bronchoscope through the main airways of the lungs.

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But is a lung biopsy dangerous? Let’s review the potential complications of a lung biopsy.

Lung Biopsy Procedure Risks

Now that we know more about the types of lung biopsies let’s look at the areas of lung biopsy risk for each procedure. Lung biopsy risks in the elderly include:

  • Needle biopsy

    • Small risk of bleeding after a lung biopsy

    • Mild pain, which can be controlled with over-the-counter pain relievers

  • Open biopsy

    • Blood loss or blood clots

    • Pain or discomfort

    • Infection

  • Thoracoscopic biopsy

    • Blood loss or clots

    • Infection

    • Pain or discomfort

    • Pneumonia

  • Transbronchial biopsy

    • Pneumothorax, or collapsed lung

    • Severe pulmonary bleeding

Anyone experiencing the above symptoms should call their doctor immediately to evaluate any potential risks.

Date: February 16, 2023

Author: Jeremy Rodriguez


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