Lung biopsy through the skin

A lung needle biopsy is a test where a doctor puts a thin needle through the skin and into the lung to remove a sample of cells.

You usually have a biopsy to find out for certain if you have lung cancer. A doctor or nurse takes samples of cells or tissue from the abnormal area. They look at the biopsy samples under a microscope to check for cancer cells.

There are different ways of doing a biopsy. Your cancer doctor or nurse will talk to you about the type of biopsy you will have. 

This information is about having a lung biopsy through the skin (lung needle biopsy).

You usually have this test during a CT scan. This helps the doctor find the exact area to take the biopsy from. It is sometimes called a percutaneous biopsy.

Your doctor gives you an injection of local anaesthetic into the skin to numb the area. They pass a thin needle through the skin (percutaneous) into your lung and take the biopsy. You may feel a pushing sensation, but it only takes a few minutes.

After the biopsy, you stay in hospital for a few hours to make sure there are no problems. You may also have a chest x-ray, because there is a small risk of air getting into the space between the pleura. If this happens, it can make the lung collapse (pneumothorax). Tell your doctor or nurse if you:

  • have any tightness or pain in your chest
  • become more breathless.

If you get a pneumothorax, it is usually minor and gets better by itself. If it does not get better, your doctor can treat it with a simple procedure.