The fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy findings were compared with the results of fine needle cutting (FNC) biopsy in 40 patients. The lesions (38 pulmonary nodules, 1 mediastinal mass and one lytic rib lesion) were biopsied with 22-gauge Greene and 21-gauge E-Z-EM needles through a 19-gauge needle guide. The FNA biopsy findings were based on smears and cell blocks of material obtained with the Greene needles while the FNC biopsy findings were based on tissue cores obtained by the E-Z-EM needles. In 83% of the cases, both techniques yielded specimens with similar cellularity; in seven cases, the FNA samples were more cellular. Malignancy was diagnosed in 80% of the patients: by both techniques in 26 patients, by FNA biopsy only in 5 patients and by FNC biopsy only in 1 patient. The sensitivity of FNA biopsy was higher than that of FNC biopsy (96.8% vs. 84.3%). The specificity and predictive value of positive results were 100% for both techniques. The predictive value of negative results was higher for FNA biopsy (88.8% vs. 54.5%). The majority of FNC biopsy tissue cores consisted mostly of clotted blood, lung tissue and/or fibrous tissue and did not facilitate or improve the diagnosis. Those data suggest that the contribution of FNC biopsy to the diagnosis of thoracic neoplasms is very limited and that the performance of FNC biopsy with an E-Z-EM needle in addition to or instead of FNA biopsy is not justified.