Safety and yield of transbronchial biopsy in mechanically ventilated patients

Crit Care Med. 1997 Mar;25(3):440-6. doi: 10.1097/00003246-199703000-00012.


Objective: To evaluate the safety and diagnostic yield of transbronchial biopsy performed in mechanically ventilated patients.

Design: Retrospective, cohort analysis.

Setting: A university-affiliated teaching hospital.

Patients: Seventy-one consecutive, mechanically ventilated patients requiring lung tissue examination.

Interventions: Transbronchial lung biopsy.

Measurements and main results: We evaluated complications associated with transbronchial biopsy, diagnostic yield of the procedure, and changes in patient management based on the results of the transbronchial lung biopsies. Eighty-three transbronchial lung biopsy procedures were performed in this patient cohort. Complications associated with these procedures included the following: ten (14.3%) pneumothoraces in patients without preexisting chest tubes; five (6.0%) episodes of bronchial hemorrhage of > 30 mL; transient oxygen desaturation to < 90% in seven (8.4%) patients; hypotension with a mean arterial pressure of < 60 mm Hg in six (7.2%) patients; and three (3.6%) episodes of tachycardia, with a heart rate of > 140 beats/min. No patient deaths, episodes of pneumonia, or sepsis could be attributed to the transbronchial lung biopsy procedures. Specific histologic diagnoses were made with 29 (34.9%) of the transbronchial biopsies, and patient management was changed as a direct result of the lung tissue examination in 34 (41.0%) instances. Pathologic correlation between the transbronchial biopsy specimens and lung tissue obtained by open-lung biopsy or post mortem examination occurred in 11 (84.6%) of 13 paired samples.

Conclusion: Transbronchial lung biopsy can be performed with an acceptable risk and reasonable diagnostic yield in certain types of mechanically ventilated patients, often obviating the need to perform open-lung biopsy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy / adverse effects*
  • Biopsy / methods*
  • Biopsy / standards
  • Bronchoscopy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Respiration, Artificial*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / pathology*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Safety
  • Sensitivity and Specificity