Effectiveness of transbronchial needle aspiration in the diagnosis of exophytic endobronchial lesions and submucosal/peribronchial diseases of the lung

Lung Cancer. 2005 Nov;50(2):221-6. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2005.05.018. Epub 2005 Jul 19.


The role of transbronchial needle aspiration (TBNA) in diagnosing endobronchial lung cancers has not been elucidated. The definitive combination of procedures that offers the best diagnostic yield following fiberoptic bronchoscopy remains controversial. This study was designed to investigate the diagnostic yield of transbronchial needle aspiration and other cytologic and histologic diagnostic procedures (i.e., forceps biopsy, brushing, and washing) and to assess the optimal combination for diagnosing endobronchial lung cancers. This prospective study included 95 patients presenting with visible tumors detected during bronchoscopic procedure as either an exophytic endobronchial lesion (EEL) or submucosal-peribronchial disease (SPD). Transbronchial needle aspiration, forceps biopsy, brushing, and washing were performed in all patients, and 91 patients were diagnosed. Rates of positive results were 75.8% for needle aspiration, 71.6% for forceps biopsy, 61.1% for brushing, and 32.6% for washing. Needle aspiration was used as the sole diagnostic method in 11, forceps biopsy was the sole diagnostic method in 5, and brushing was the sole diagnostic method in 4 patients. Washing was not used as the sole diagnostic method in any case. Forceps biopsy yielded the highest diagnostic rate for an EEL (86.4%); however, when compared with needle aspiration (77.9%), no significant difference was observed between these two procedures (P = 0.302). In patients with a diagnosis of SPD, needle aspiration was determined to be the sole diagnostic method in eight patients. In this group of patients, the highest rate of diagnosis was achieved with needle aspiration (72.2%), and when compared with forceps biopsy (47.2%), a significant difference between the two procedures (forceps biopsy versus needle aspiration) was observed (P = 0.049). By adding transbronchial needle aspiration to the conventional diagnostic methods (forceps biopsy, brushing, and washing), the rate of diagnosis increased from 82.1% to 95.8% (P = 0.001), and in patients with a diagnosis of SPD, this rate increased from 69.4% to 94.4% (P = 0.008). In patients with a diagnosis of an EEL, addition of needle aspiration led to an increase in diagnostic yield but this difference was not statistically significant (89.8% versus 96.6%, P = 0.250). In endobronchial lung cancers, transbronchial needle aspiration is a safe method that can be used together with conventional diagnostic procedures to increase the diagnostic yield and should be considered a valuable diagnostic tool, particularly in cases of SPD. The highest rate of diagnostic yield in this study was obtained using a combination of forceps biopsy, transbronchial needle aspiration, and brushing; washing did not contribute to this high rate.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy
  • Biopsy, Needle / methods
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surgical Instruments