The role of surgical lung biopsy in the management of interstitial lung disease: experience from a single institution in the UK

Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2013 Aug;17(2):253-7. doi: 10.1093/icvts/ivt217. Epub 2013 May 14.


Objectives: Interstitial lung disease (ILD) includes a wide spectrum of pulmonary pathologies. The role of surgical lung biopsy (SLB) in the diagnosis of ILD is still controversial. The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether SLB is worthwhile in the management of ILD.

Methods: One hundred and three patients underwent SLB for ILD from April 2008 to March 2010 at a single institution. Outcomes included patient demographics, preoperative investigations, preoperative diagnosis and treatment, surgical approach, number and site of biopsies, complications, length of postoperative stay and postoperative pathological diagnosis and treatment.

Results: Fifty-one (49.6%) patients were male and 52 (50.4%) were female. The median age was 58 (range 26-78). Major complications were seen in 7 patients (6.8%). Five patients (4.9%) died within 30 days following surgery. Definitive pathological diagnosis (DPD) was reached in 72 (69.9%) patients, whereas no DPD was achieved in 31 (30.1%). Within the group of patients who received DPD, this differed from the clinical diagnosis in 53 patients (51.5%), and was concordant in 19 (18.4%). The DPD was helpful in guiding the management of 47 patients (45.6%), who had a change in their treatment following the procedure. The median hospital stay was 4 days (range 2-42 days).

Conclusions: SLB is a well-recognized procedure. Although it provides a diagnosis for the majority of patients, in our series SLB was inconclusive in a considerable number of cases and did not lead to a therapeutic change for more than half of all patients. Furthermore, SLB is not without risk and can be associated with a prolonged hospital stay. We believe that SLB should be performed in a select group of patients with ILD after discussion by a multidisciplinary panel.

Keywords: Biopsy; Interstitial lung disease; Video-assisted thoracic surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy* / adverse effects
  • Biopsy* / mortality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / mortality
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / pathology*
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality
  • Postoperative Complications / therapy
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Scotland
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / adverse effects
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / mortality
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome