The efficacy of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery lung biopsies in patients with Interstitial Lung Disease: a retrospective study of 66 patients

J Cardiothorac Surg. 2014 Mar 10;9:45. doi: 10.1186/1749-8090-9-45.


Background: Diagnosing a specific type of Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) is a challenging process and often necessitates that a Video-assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS) Lung Biopsy be performed. By analysing the proportion of patients who have their treatment changed after undergoing a VATS lung biopsy, this study aimed to determine the utility of performing this procedure in patients with ILD.

Methods: The clinical data from sixty-six patients with suspected ILD, who underwent VATS lung biopsies at the New Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (NRIE) in the period of 16th May 2011 - 11th February 2013, were analysed retrospectively. The main outcome measures considered in this study were: CT scan differential diagnoses, VATS lung biopsy histological differential diagnoses, post-VATS lung biopsy consensus diagnoses, 30-day mortality, surgical complications (minor and major), resultant changes in treatment and responses to these changes in treatment.

Results: Following VATS biopsy a definite pathological diagnosis was made in 74.2% of cases. A change in treatment was initiated in 47.2% of patients, including in 80% of patients diagnosed with Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis and 60% of patients diagnosed with sarcoidosis. A positive response to treatment was experienced in 58% of patients whom underwent a change in treatment. Only 54% of patients who received a consensus diagnosis of UIP after VATS lung biopsy, had been given a differential diagnosis of "probable UIP" at CT scan. 15% of patients who received a differential diagnosis of "probable UIP" at CT scan, had their diagnosis changed to Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis after lung biopsy. There was one mortality (1.5%) in this series of patients and no other major complications. Minor complications to surgery were experienced in 28.8% of patients.

Conclusions: This study highlights the effectiveness of performing VATS lung biopsies in patients with suspected ILD. The procedure leads to a change in treatment in almost half of all patients, including in the vast majority of cases of Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis. It also prevents what would be the inappropriate over-treatment of UIP. It has been shown to be a relatively safe procedure and thus, should be performed in all patients with suspected ILD, indeterminate in type from prior CT imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy / adverse effects
  • Biopsy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / diagnosis*
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / adverse effects
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / methods*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed