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Open Lung Biopsy: The procedure, risks and preparations

  • Posted on- Apr 04, 2016
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Have you been advised to go through an open lung biopsy? How is it different from other kinds of biopsies? What are the risks involved in the procedure and how long does it take to recover from the same? Read on.....

Your doctor would ask you to go for a lung biopsy if you have been experiencing certain lung problems like pulmonary fibrosis, chest pain, prolonged coughing, wheezing and other signs and symptoms of lung conditions including lung cancer! Your doctor evaluates the signs and symptoms that you have been experiencing and conducts various tests like X-ray and CT scans. If these tests show some abnormalities in the lung tissues, then the doctor would advise you to go for a lung biopsy for further tests and evaluation of the lung tissue. A lung biopsy is a medical procedure wherein a small tissue of the lung is removed for further testing and evaluating under the microscope. There are various approaches to perform a lung biopsy, and an open lung biopsy is one of them! It is a much lengthier procedure as compared to the other types of lung biopsies. Your doctor would usually ask you to go for this kind of biopsy if other kind of biopsies are not possible, or when a larger sample of lung tissue needs to be collected for testing.

How is an open lung biopsy done?

An open lung biopsy is more like a mini surgery wherein the surgeon makes an incision in between the ribs in order to collect a sample of the lung tissue. This biopsy is considered to be the best option as the sample is much more reliable and there are high chances that the diagnosis will be accurate, especially in case of lung cancer. Mentioned below is the step-by-step procedure of how it is done.

  • You will be asked to remove your clothes before the procedure usually a cloth or a paper is given to cover your body. This also means that you cannot wear any kind of make-up, wig, lenses, glasses or jewellery.
  • Before the procedure, the doctor will give you sedatives to calm your body and mind. You will also be on an intravenous line, and a tube will be inserted in your wind pipe through the mouth so that it becomes easy for you to breathe through the procedure.
  • The anaesthesiologist gives you a general anaesthetic so that the procedure is painless for you and that you are asleep while the sample is being collected through the procedure.
  • After cleaning the puncture site, the surgeon will make an incision on your chest, between the ribs so that a sample of lung tissues can be removed. A thorascope (tubular equipment with a camera, eyepiece and light) is passed through this incision so that the surgeon is able to see the lung surface and remove the desired sample effectively.
  • Once the sample has been taken, the doctor inserts a chest tube in the between the ribs and the lung which helps the lungs to re-expand and drain the liquid out of the lungs. The incision is then stitched with one end of the chest tube inside and the other end fixed to a container that collects the drained fluid.
  • The chest tube is left inside for a day or two and the stitches are removed within 7-14 days depending on how fast your wounds are healed. You will have to stay in the recovery room for about an hour or two after the procedure, followed by a few days in the hospital until you are healed and out of the symptoms after the biopsy such as muscle aches, sore throat, pain and itchiness at the point of incision. Minor amount of bleeding may also occur.

What are the risks involved?

With increase and advanced technology, there are minimal risks involved with an open lung biopsy. Some side effects or risk factors may include the following:
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Infection at the incision site which may lead to excessive bleeding or liquid discharge
  • Complications related to anaesthesia may occur
  • The procedure can cause your lung to collapse, which is why a chest tube is placed to keep the lung inflated

How should you prepare?

So, after knowing the procedures and the risk factors, what are the preparations that you need to do before you go for this kind of biopsy? Well, based on your X-ray reports, blood tests and CT scan reports, your doctor would ask you to fill a consent form and sign it before you go for this procedure. Although your doctor will advice you about how you need to prepare for this procedure, the following are some key points that you should keep in mind.
  • Let your doctor know if you are pregnant, or if you think that you may be pregnant.
  • Inform your doctor about all the different medications you are consuming, including blood thinners and herbal medications.
  • You should also inform your doctor about the allergies that you have, if any, especially related to anaesthesia.
  • Your doctor would advise you to stop eating and drinking at least 6-12 hours before the procedure. Therefore, it is better to do the procedure early morning so that the fasting period can be covered during sleep hours.
  • Make sure you clearly convey the doctor all your concerns and follow each and every instruction given by the doctor.

The recovery from an open lung biopsy may take longer as compared to other types of lung biopsies. Nevertheless, if you experience certain signs and symptoms that are extremely bothersome, then consult your doctor as soon as possible. Your body is being exposed to foreign materials, so there will be certain side effects and discomfort, but that doesn't change the fact the open lung biopsy is definitely the best way for the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer and other lung related infections. So, discuss all your concerns with your doctor and understand how important and safe it is for you.


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18-06-2017 05:21 AM

I was suffering from chest pain for a very long time. My doctor suggested me to go through open lung biopsy procedure.

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