Mesothelioma Web logo


Needle Biopsy of the Pleura

Although in most cases, a VATS (video-assisted thoracic surgery) procedure is the preferred method for obtaining tissue samples for the diagnosis of mesothelioma, there are some patients for whom this procedure may be inappropriate. In these instances, a needle biopsy of the pleura may be recommended.

As opposed to the VATS procedure which requires general anesthesia, a needle biopsy can be done on an outpatient basis, or if the patient is hospitalized, at bedside, with a local anesthetic. The procedure begins with the patient in a sitting position, leaning forward with their arms resting on a table for support. A small incision is made, and while the patient holds his breath, a needle is inserted through the ribs until it reaches the pleura. An imaging machine, such as an ultrasound or CT, will help guide the needle into the desired position. The doctor then withdraws a tissue sample which is preserved and sent to the lab for analysis. Pressure is placed on the incision site, and when the bleeding has completely stopped, a bandage is applied. The procedure normally takes from 30-60 minutes, and if there are no complications, the patient can return home in a few hours.

Back to Diagnosis section