Thoracic Interventions

CT-Guided Lung Biopsy

Percutaneous lung biopsy is a safe and minimally-invasive alternative to surgical biopsy in the appropriate clinical setting. The procedure can be performed in an outpatient setting with conscious sedation rather than general anesthesia. Primary risks include pneumothorax with possible chest tube placement, bleeding, and infection; however these risks are inherent to most thoracic interventions and the overall morbidity and mortality is less than that of surgical biopsy.

Fine needle aspirate (FNA) or core biopsy specimens of lung lesions can be obtained; which method is performed depends upon the size and location of the lesion as well as the intended purpose of tissue sampling (standard of care diagnosis vs. research or specialized testing).

A radiologist will review available imaging to determine if the lung lesion is amenable to percutaneous sampling. In general, lung lesions must be at least 1.0 cm in size and not adjacent to critical structures such as the heart or large vessels. Upper lung lesions are typically more easily sampled than lower lung lesions due to increased respiratory excursion at the lung bases. If an airway is leading into the lesion, transbronchial biopsy may be recommended. Furthermore, if extrathoracic disease is present, sampling these sites first may provide a diagnosis and important staging information while avoiding the risks of pulmonary intervention.

Pleural Drainage

Many pleural collections can be safely accessed without image guidance. However, small amounts of fluid or loculated collections may require ultrasound or CT imaging guidance for safe and effective sampling or drainage catheter placement. The procedure is fast, minimally-invasive, and low-risk compared to surgical thoracotomy.

Procedure Preparation

In order to facilitate scheduling and avoid delays in patient care, please download and review important information for our referring physicians and patients: Thoracic Intervention Instructions


To schedule a lung biopsy or other thoracic intervention, please call 919-684-7331.