CT-guided fine-needle aspiration biopsy of solitary pulmonary nodules under 15 mm in diameter: Time for an afterthought?

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Background: Many studies on fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) for undetermined pulmonary nodules reported that diagnostic accuracy tended to decline, whereas complication prevalence raised as the size of nodule decreased. Reconsideration on the effectiveness of FNAB would be appropriate considering the dramatic increase in the identification of small nodules with screening programs and new demands of target therapies. The aim of this study was to verify the efficacy of FNAB in pulmonary nodules smaller than 15 mm. Methods: A retrospective, cohort study was conducted on patients with undetermined solitary pulmonary nodules (SPNs) who underwent computer tomography (CT) guided FNAB at our Institution from January 2012 to December 2014. Patients with SPNs with diameter up to 15 mm were considered; inclusion criteria comprised ASA 3, FEV1 <70% of predicted, cardiac comorbidity or previous chest surgery. FNAB diagnostic performance and clinical efficacy were calculated. Results: Out of 225 patients referred for FNAB, 68 covered inclusion criteria. Forty-nine out of 68 smears (72%) were adequate for diagnosis. Specificity was 100% (95% CI: 77–100%), sensitivity was 100% (95% CI: 90–100%). Positive and negative predictive values were 1.0 (95% CI: 0.9–1.0) and 1.0 (95% CI: 0.77–1.0) respectively. A post-biopsy pneumothorax was detected in 27 cases (39%); the pneumothorax rate was significantly affected by the number of passages (P=0.01). Conclusions: The satisfactory results of our study lead to reconsidering FNAB in patients with pulmonary nodules below 15 mm in diameter, especially in order to avoid unnecessary surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)724-731
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Thoracic Disease
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Biopsy
  • Fine-needle
  • Lung neoplasms
  • Solitary pulmonary nodule (SPN)
  • Tomography
  • X-ray computed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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