A CT guided lung biopsy involves taking a tiny sample of tissue through a needle, which is guided into place using a CT machine.

The sample of lung tissue is sent to a pathology laboratory where the specimen is analysed. Results are usually available in 2 to 3 days. The report will be sent to your referring doctor who will then give these results to you. The pathology company may also charge a gap for these services. Please discuss this with us if you have any questions.


You will lie on the CT table in the best way to access the area to be biopsied. Your skin will be cleaned with antiseptic where the needle will be inserted, and a local anaesthetic will be administered.

The radiologist will use the CT machine to guide a needle into the correct area. It is often necessary to make more than one pass of the needle to obtain a sufficient sample. It is important that you keep still and follow breath-holding instructions during the procedure, which may take up to 30 minutes.

Before your Scan

It is essential that your previous x-ray, CT and ultrasound films are available at the time of the biopsy. Please bring these with you if you have them.

Please inform us if you are on medication to thin your blood (e.g. Warfarin, Aspirin or Clopidogrel). You may need to stop this medication before the procedure, but only after discussion with your doctor.

Before the biopsy, you may be asked to change into an examination gown for your comfort, and to ensure clothing does not affect the images. You may also be asked to remove jewellery, eye-glasses and any metal objects that might interfere with the imaging.

You may be asked to fast (not eat or drink) for 6 hours prior to the procedure. A day hospital admission is usually required so you can be observed after the procedure. It is important to have someone to drive you home.

Risks / Side Effects

Potential risks include:

  • Infection – the biopsy uses aseptic technique (strict infection control techniques to minimise any risks of infections).
  • Bleeding – bloodstaining of the sputum (saliva or spit) may be seen and should settle. Rarely, excessive bleeding can occur at the biopsy site and may require drainage, transfusion or surgery.
  • Pneumothorax – air may leak out of a hole in the lung and collect around the lung. If only a small amount of air, this will be followed up without treatment. If it is a large amount, a chest drain may need to be inserted.

The biopsy may not obtain enough sample of lung tissue, which may require a repeat biopsy.

Other Information

Avoid strenuous activity and flying for 24 hours following the biopsy.

You may remove your dressing/band-aid the next day.

Bloodstaining of the sputum may be seen and should settle.

  • You may experience some discomfort following the procedure. If required, a simple analgesic such as paracetamol (Panadol) should be sufficient. Do NOT take Aspirin.

Please contact your referring doctor if you:

  • cough up increasing amounts of blood;
  • notice fever, swelling, or increased pain at the needle entry site;
  • experience worsening shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or increasing pain on breathing. As this could be a side-effect caused by air leaking from a hole in the lung, it is essential that you contact your referring doctor, local doctor or your local emergency department immediately.

If you have not been contacted about your results within 1 to 2 weeks, please contact your referrer.

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