Safety of endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration for patients taking clopidogrel: a report of 12 consecutive cases

Respiration. 2012;83(4):330-4. doi: 10.1159/000335254. Epub 2012 Jan 25.


Background: Clopidogrel is an oral agent commonly used for primary or secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. It is associated with an increased risk of bleeding during some medical and surgical procedures. Endobronchial ultrasound-guided transbronchial needle aspiration (EBUS-TBNA) is a new bronchoscopic technique used to accurately biopsy intrathoracic structures during flexible bronchoscopy. It is currently unknown whether clopidogrel increases bleeding complications during EBUS-TBNA procedures.

Objectives: To evaluate the safety of clopidogrel use in EBUS-TBNA by identifying consecutive cases of EBUS-TBNA procedures performed on patients taking clopidogrel.

Methods: A retrospective review of a prospectively collected quality improvement database from 1,100 consecutive pulmonary procedures performed by an interventional pulmonologist (D.R.S.) at the University of Calgary from July 1st, 2007 to April 1st, 2011 was performed.

Results: Twelve cases of EBUS-TBNA procedures performed on patients taking clopidogrel were identified. Mean age was 74 years (range 61-85). Seven patients (66.7%) were taking aspirin in addition to clopidogrel. There was no significant bleeding seen in any cases at the time of bronchoscopy and no additional complications were identified during follow-up (at least 4 weeks; median follow-up 3 months).

Conclusions: This series of 12 cases suggests that EBUS-TBNA can be performed safely by experienced operators in patients taking clopidogrel. Nevertheless, until larger prospective studies confirm this hypothesis, proceeding to EBUS-TBNA without first withdrawing clopidogrel should only be performed in situations where the risk of short-term thrombosis is believed to outweigh the (theoretical) risk of bleeding.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Bronchoscopy / adverse effects
  • Bronchoscopy / methods
  • Clopidogrel
  • Endosonography / adverse effects
  • Endosonography / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hemorrhage / chemically induced*
  • Hemorrhage / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Safety Management
  • Sampling Studies
  • Ticlopidine / adverse effects
  • Ticlopidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Ticlopidine / therapeutic use


  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • Clopidogrel
  • Ticlopidine