Background: Obtaining a tissue diagnosis of malignancy is challenging in patients with suspected lung cancer presenting with centrally located intrapulmonary masses.
Objective: (1) To evaluate the yield of endobronchial ultrasound with real-time guided transbronchial needle aspiration (EBUS-TBNA) for diagnosing centrally located lesions after a non-diagnostic conventional bronchoscopy. (2) To assess the impact of EBUS-TBNA on patient management for this indication.
Study design and patients: A retrospective analysis of a series of patients with a central parenchymal lung lesion suspected to be lung cancer who had been referred to three university hospitals for EBUS-TBNA to obtain a tissue diagnosis was undertaken. If EBUS-TBNA did not result in a formal pathological diagnosis of malignancy, patients were subsequently referred for a transthoracic needle aspiration biopsy or a surgical diagnostic procedure.
Results: Sixty patients were investigated with EBUS-TBNA. The majority (82%) had a prior (non-diagnostic) flexible bronchoscopy. EBUS-TBNA was performed in an out-patient setting in 97%. With ultrasound, the primary lung lesion was observed in all cases. EBUS-TBNA confirmed lung cancer in 46 (77%). A final reference pathology diagnosis was available in 59 (98%) cases. The sensitivity of EBUS-TBNA for diagnosing lung cancer was 82% (95% confidence intervals (CI) 69-91%) with a negative predictive value of 23% (95%CI 5-53%). Based on the EBUS-TBNA findings, transthoracic needle aspiration biopsy or a surgical diagnostic procedure was cancelled in 47% and 30% of patients, respectively. No serious procedure-related complications were reported.
Conclusion: EBUS-TBNA is a sensitive tool for the diagnosis of centrally located primary lung cancer not visible at conventional bronchoscopy. Therefore, EBUS-TBNA can impact on patient management in this setting. However, the low negative predictive value indicates that a negative EBUS-TBNA result should be confirmed by other methods.
Implication: EBUS-TBNA can be considered as a diagnostic test in patients with a centrally located lung lesion after a previous non-diagnostic conventional bronchoscopy.