A radiologist may use a CT/MRI scanner to guide a hollow needle between the patient’s ribs to retrieve a tissue sample from the lung, which will then be examined under a microscope. This is less invasive than surgical biopsy, and will normally not require general anaesthesia.
In this picture, the patient is lying on their front with the needle going into their back to take a sample from the large inflammatory (whitish) area of the lung. Both lungs show considerable destruction of normal architecture, typical of emphysema, indicating that the patient was a heavy smoker.
Patients undergoing this procedure will receive local anaesthetic and sometimes other medication to relax them. They may need to avoid eating or taking certain medications (particularly blood thinners) some time before the procedure. The biopsy will generally take under an hour.