Send to

Choose Destination
Clin Pulm Med. 2013 Jan 1;20(1):29-35.

Risks of Transthoracic Needle Biopsy: How High?

Author information

The Pulmonary Center, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA (RSW); Center for Health Quality, Outcomes and Economic Research, ENRM VA Hospital, Bedford, MA (RSW); Department of Surgery, Tufts University Medical Center, Boston, MA (DCW); Department of Research and Evaluation, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, Pasadena, CA (MKG).


Transthoracic needle lung biopsy is a commonly performed diagnostic procedure for pulmonary nodules and masses. To make an informed decision about whether to pursue this procedure, doctors and patients must be aware of the possible risks of the procedure. We performed a MEDLINE search, 2003-2012 to identify relevant English-language studies that included at least 100 subjects and reported data on complications of transthoracic needle lung biopsy performed within the last 10 years. We found the most common complication to be any pneumothorax (risk 15-25%), with pneumothorax requiring chest tube occurring less often (risk 4-6%). Hemorrhage, defined as radiographically visualized blood along the needle tract was common, but clinically significant hemorrhage was infrequent (~1%). Rare complications, including air embolism and tumor seeding of the biopsy tract, occurred in fewer than 1% of cases but were potentially serious. We summarize data on factors associated with complications, including patient age, COPD, lesion size and location, and number of punctures. We also provide data on techniques to mitigate severity of pneumothorax post-biopsy, such as rapid patient rollover, manual aspiration, and instillation of substances into the biopsy tract.


Complications; Needle Biopsy; Pulmonary nodule

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center