CT Guided Lung Biopsy

Your doctor has suggested you have a CT Guided Lung Biopsy as part of your evaluation at National Jewish Health. A CT scan takes pictures of the inside of the body. The pictures are more detailed than a typical X-ray. During a CT scan of the chest, pictures are taken of cross sections or slices of the thoracic structures in your body.

A CT Guided Lung Biopsy uses real-time CT images to ensure biopsy samples are accurately taken from the desired part of the lung. These biopsy samples are checked for adequacy by a pathologist during the procedure to make sure a diagnostic sample is obtained.

Following the procedure, these tissue samples will be analyzed by a pathologist, and a report will be sent to your doctor. This will help your doctor determine the best treatment plan for you.


Preparing for the Test

Planning Ahead:

Day of the Test:


During the Test

The nurse will explain the procedure to you before you start. Ask questions if you don’t understand.  Before the test you will need to remove all clothing and jewelry from the waist up. You will be given a hospital gown to wear. The nurse will start an IV. You will feel a skin prick when the IV is started. The nurse will take you to the Institute for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (Radiology).

You will be monitored closely during the procedure. An EKG will monitor your heart rate. A blood pressure cuff may be placed on your arm to monitor your blood pressure. A pulse oximeter will be placed on your finger to monitor the oxygen level in your blood. You may receive oxygen through a nasal cannula.

You will be asked to lie on the CT scan table. The technologist will give you instructions during the test. You will be asked to hold your breath for 10 to 12 seconds several times. Throughout the exam, you will be asked to take in the same amount of air each time when holding your breath. 

After an initial series of CT images are taken, part of your skin will be exposed at the chest. Your skin will be cleaned, and a sterile drape placed over the area. A local anesthesia will be used to numb the skin.  This will cause a “sting” which will subside quickly. After the skin is numb, biopsies will be taken of the lung. You will need to lie still throughout the procedure.

Using imaging guidance, the doctor will insert the needle through the skin, advance it to the site of the nodule and remove samples of tissue. Several samples may be needed for complete analysis. As the biopsies are obtained, a pathologist will quickly review the samples to ensure that the samples are good.

When all the necessary samples are obtained, a small bandage will be applied to the skin.


After the Test


Length of the Test

A CT Guided Lung Biopsy takes about 4 1/2 – 6 1/2 hours. This includes about 30 minutes to prepare for the test, 1 – 2 hours for the test and about 4 hours for recovery.


Day of the Test

On the day of your scheduled test, check in at the front desk. A nurse from MIDC will come get you. If you have questions you can contact the Institute for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (Radiology) at 303-398-1611. If you need to cancel the appointment, please call.


This information has been approved by Renee Mondragon, RN, and Will Cook, RT, MA (July 2010).