Open pleural biopsy

Alternative names
Biopsy - open pleura


The pleura is the membrane lining the chest cavity and covers the lungs. An open pleural biopsy is a test in which the sample to be examined is obtained by an incision through the chest wall.

How the test is performed

This procedure is done in the hospital using general anesthesia (the patient is unconscious and pain-free). During the procedure, you are given a mixture of anesthetic gas and oxygen through a tube that is inserted through your mouth and into the trachea.

An incision is made in the chest on the left or right side. A sample is taken from the pleura (lung membrane) under direct observation. After the sample is obtained, a chest tube is placed and the incision is stitched closed.

How to prepare for the test

You will be asked not to eat or drink for 8 hours before the test. You must sign a consent form.

Infants and children:
The physical and psychological preparation you can provide for this or any test or procedure depends on your child’s age, interests, previous experience, and level of trust. For specific information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following topics as they correspond to your child’s age:

  • Infant test or procedure preparation (birth to 1 year)  
  • Toddler test or procedure preparation (1 to 3 years)  
  • Preschooler test or procedure preparation (3 to 6 years)  
  • Schoolage test or procedure preparation (6 to 12 years)  
  • Adolescent test or procedure preparation (12 to 18 years)

How the test will feel

You will be asleep during the procedure. There will be some tenderness and pain at the site of the incision afterwards. You may have a sore throat after the test due to the breathing tube.

Why the test is performed

This procedure is used when a larger sample is needed than can be obtained by a pleural needle biopsy. The procedure is done when no body fluids are in the pleura or when a direct view of the pleura and the lungs is necessary.

Normal Values
The pleura will be normal.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal findings can indicate tuberculosis or neoplasms (abnormal growths). Viral, fungal, or parasitic diseases may also be detected.

Additional conditions under which the test may be performed include metastatic pleural tumor.

What the risks are

There is a slight chance of excessive loss of blood, an air leak, or injury to the lung.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 2, 2012
by Arthur A. Poghosian, M.D.

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