Background: Up to one third of patients with interstitial lung disease will require a lung biopsy for diagnosis. Open lung biopsy is generally accepted as the most reliable method of biopsy and tissue diagnosis. The purpose of this study was to compare the efficacy and safety of video thoracoscopic lung biopsy, a minimally invasive technique, with open lung biopsy in the diagnosis of interstitial lung disease.
Methods: From December 1990 to January 1992, 43 patients were referred for diagnostic lung biopsy. Twenty-two consecutive patients undergoing video thoracoscopic lung biopsy (VTLB) over a 6-month period were retrospectively studied and compared with 21 consecutive patients who had undergone open lung biopsy (OLB) in the preceding 6-month period.
Results: VTLB (46 +/- 4 minutes) did not add to operative time when compared with OLB (38 +/- 3 min, p = 0.09). The same number of biopsies per patient were performed (VTLB, 1.9 +/- 0.1; OLB, 2.0 +/- 0.1; p = 0.48), the same amount of tissue was obtained per biopsy (VTLB, 6.69 +/- 0.82 cm3; OLB, 5.78 +/- 0.54 cm3; p = 0.36), and the diagnostic accuracy of each method was comparable (VTLB, 95 percent; OLB, 100 percent). However, patients undergoing VTLB demonstrated a significant reduction in length of pleural drainage (1.36 +/- 0.25 days) and hospital stay (2.57 +/- 0.46 days) relative to patients undergoing OLB (3.20 +/- 0.34 days, 5.71 +/- 0.63 days; p < 0.05). Complications occurred in 2/22 VTLB patients (9 percent, 0 deaths) and 4/21 OLB patients (19 percent, 1 death).
Conclusions: When compared with OLB, VTLB does the following: (1) provides equivalent specimen volume; (2) achieves equal diagnostic accuracy; (3) does not add to operative time or complications; and (4) reduces the time necessary for pleural drainage and length of hospital stay. Our findings suggest that VTLB is an effective and safe alternative to OLB in the diagnosis of interstitial lung disease.