Contraindications and safety of transbronchial lung biopsy via flexible bronchoscopy. A survey of pulmonologists and review of the literature

Respiration. 2005 May-Jun;72(3):285-95. doi: 10.1159/000085370.


Background: Transbronchial lung biopsy (TBLB) via flexible bronchoscopy is a common procedure performed by pulmonologists. Limited scientific data exist concerning the risk of this procedure in patients with conditions that may adversely affect the rate of procedural complications.

Objectives: To evaluate the current practice pattern and attitude of pulmonologists toward the performance of TBLB in the presence of high-risk conditions.

Methods: A survey was constructed and distributed at the American College of Chest Physicians annual meeting, held in Philadelphia, USA, in November of 2001.

Results: A total of 227 surveys were distributed with a return of 158 (69.6%). Anticoagulation medications are temporarily held prior to TBLB by the majority of our survey respondents (98.7% for intravenous heparin, 90.5% for warfarin, and 87.3% for low-molecular-weight heparin). Medications with effect on platelet function are held by fewer pulmonologists. There is a wide variation in the pulmonologists' perception of the risk of performing TBLB when certain medical conditions coexist: pulmonary hypertension [absolute contraindication (AC), 28.7%; relative contraindication (RC) 58.6%], superior vena cava syndrome (AC 19.6%, RC 51%), mechanical ventilation (AC 17.8%, RC 58.6%) and lung cavity/abscess (AC 7%, RC 44.9%). A significant percentage of pulmonologists (55%) do not regard an elevated serum creatinine at any level as AC to TBLB. Thirty-eight percent of the survey participants administer desmopressin prior to TBLB in uremic patients to prevent excessive bleeding.

Conclusions: Prior to performing bronchoscopic TBLB, the majority of pulmonologists temporarily holds anticoagulation medications. However, there is a lack of agreement in relation to perceived contraindications and safety of TBLB.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchoscopy* / methods
  • Contraindications
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Hematologic Agents
  • Hematologic Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology*
  • Professional Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pulmonary Medicine / methods
  • Pulmonary Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / therapy
  • Risk Factors
  • United States


  • Hematologic Agents
  • Creatinine