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Lung biopsy

3-minute read

This page 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 involves removing small pieces of abnormal lung tissue using a needle.

What are the benefits of a lung biopsy?

Your doctor (a lung specialist) is concerned about a problem in your lung that has shown up on an x-ray or scan. A lung biopsy is a good way of finding out what the problem is.

Illustration showing a lung biopsy.
A lung biopsy.

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?

A lung biopsy usually takes less than 45 minutes. It involves inserting a needle through your chest wall and into your lung. Your doctor may use an x-ray, CT or ultrasound scan to help decide exactly where to take the samples from. They will inject local anaesthetic into the area where the needle will be inserted. Your doctor will insert the needle between your ribs and into the abnormal area in your lung.

They will use the needle to take small samples of lung tissue. The samples will be examined under a microscope to find out the cause of your problem.

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death (risk: 1 in 1,000).

  • pain
  • pneumothorax, where air escapes into the space around your lung
  • allergic reaction
  • bleeding from a biopsy site

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home after a few hours.

You should be able to return to work the next day unless you are told otherwise.

The healthcare team will discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need.

You should be able to return to normal activities the next day.

Regular exercise should improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.


A lung biopsy is usually a safe and effective way of finding out about the problem in your lung.


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Last reviewed: September 2020

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