Percutaneous transthoracic needle aspiration biopsy: a comprehensive review of its current role in the diagnosis and treatment of lung tumors

Chest. 1998 Sep;114(3):704-9. doi: 10.1378/chest.114.3.704.


Objective: The purpose of this study is to examine the accuracy and complications of transthoracic needle aspiration biopsy (TTNA) to determine its optimal role in the evaluation of patients with lung tumors.

Materials and methods: The charts of 130 consecutive patients who had undergone CT-guided TTNA were reviewed retrospectively. Thirty-two (25%) of these patients had subsequent surgery and 5 had subsequent transbronchial biopsy (TBB). Using the final surgical and TBB diagnosis as a reference, the accuracy, sensitivity, specificity, and prevalence of malignancy were calculated. Each case was also examined to determine the presence or absence of complications.

Results: Of the 130 biopsy results, 95 (73%) were malignant, 33 (25%) were nonspecific, and only 2 (2%) had a specific benign diagnosis. Thirty-two patients subsequently underwent surgical resection. The overall prevalence of malignancy after surgical diagnosis was 91%. The overall diagnostic accuracy of TTNA was 76%. The sensitivity of TTNA for the detection of malignancy was 74% and its specificity was 100%. When comparing TTNA results of small (<3 cm) and large (> or = 3 cm) tumors, the occurrence of nonspecific results was 36% and 16%, respectively. Fifty-six (43%) patients had a pneumothorax subsequent to TTNA. Twenty-four (43%) of these patients required a chest tube and remained hospitalized for a mean of 6 days.

Conclusion: Patients who are surgical candidates and have a high clinical suspicion for malignancy should undergo surgical biopsy and resection of their lung tumors if indicated. Information gained from TTNAs performed on this patient population will rarely result in a change in their clinical management.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy, Needle* / adverse effects
  • Biopsy, Needle* / methods
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Smoking