Integration of transbronchial and percutaneous approach in the diagnosis of peripheral pulmonary nodules or masses. Experience with 1,027 consecutive cases

Chest. 1995 Jul;108(1):131-7. doi: 10.1378/chest.108.1.131.


A study to evaluate the usefulness of the integration of the transbronchial and percutaneous approaches in the diagnosis of peripheral pulmonary nodules or masses (PPN/M) was conducted. The authors used both procedures, performed by a single diagnostic team, a pulmonologist, radiologist, and cytopathologist, who were all simultaneously present in the radiologic suite during the maneuvers. From January 1985 to June 1993, under fluoroscopic guidance, the authors performed 557 transbronchial pulmonary biopsies (TBPB), 483 transbronchial needle aspirations (TBNA), and 652 percutaneous needle aspirations (PCNA) on 1,027 consecutive patients referred because of a PPN/M (mean diameter, 3.5 cm; range, 0.8 to 8 cm). The procedure used was as follows: (1) bronchoscopy with exploration of the upper airways and bronchial tree, followed by TBNA and immediate cytologic assessment (ICA); (2) at least three TBPB; (3) if TBNA was diagnostic, the procedure was stopped; if not, a second pass with the needle was performed and then the bronchoscope was removed; (4) if the second TBNA was not diagnostic, PCNA with ICA was performed up to a maximum of three needle passes. Diagnostic sensitivity for malignant lesions was as follows: 53.9% for TBPB, 69.3% for TBNA, 75.4% for TBPB and TBNA together, 93.2% for PCNA, and 95.2% overall. The percentage of benign nodules correctly defined was 41.4% for TBPB, 17.4% for TBNA, 45.8% for PCNA, and 59.5% overall. Examination of the upper airways and bronchial tree was positive for lesions endoscopically visible in 12.6% of cases. The authors' experience shows that transbronchial and percutaneous approaches must be considered complementary and that their integrated use not only increases diagnostic yield but also permits important information to be obtained for disease staging. The creation of teams able to use both approaches with the cytopathologist present for ICA should be encouraged to optimize the diagnostic management of PPN/M with a reduction in diagnostic and hospitalization time and consequent cost saving.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms
  • Biopsy / methods
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Female
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule / pathology*