Safety and Diagnostic Yield of Transthoracic Needle Aspiration of the Lung in Elderly Patients

Drew Willey, Juan Garcia-Saucedo, Fernando Stancampiano, Michael G. Heckman, Zachary Klopman, Andrea Koralewski, Matthew Crawford, Margaret M. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Pulmonary nodules in elderly patients are commonly encountered in clinical practice. Tissue sampling with image guided transthoracic needle aspiration is often performed but may be complicated by pneumothorax or bleeding. To understand the outcomes of transthoracic needle aspiration in the elderly, we retrospectively reviewed outcomes of patients age 75 or greater in a single tertiary center. Methods: Four-hundred eleven patients age 75 or greater with a pulmonary nodule identified on computed tomography who underwent needle aspiration of the lung were studied. Diagnostic yield and procedural complications were assessed for each patient and subgroups analysis of those age 85 or greater was performed. Results: Malignancy was confirmed in 70% of subjects and a benign diagnosis identified in 9%. Of the 411 patents, 203 (49.4%) experienced a complication; 150 patients (36.5%) developed a pneumothorax and 79 (19.2%) had bleeding. No patient required transfusion, experienced persistent air leak or massive hemoptysis, air embolism or death. Post procedural hospitalization was required in 36 patients (8.8%) with a median hospital stay of 2 days. No factors were identified to be associated with occurrence of a complication (all p ≥ 0.16) and complications were not increased in those 85 or greater. Conclusion: Our results suggest that in an elderly population, image guided needle aspiration of a pulmonary nodule provides diagnostic findings in most patients. Procedural complications following are not uncommon but the severity and long-term impact are limited. The occurrence of complications is similar in those age 75–84 and age 85 and older.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-176
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Elderly
  • Lung cancer
  • Pulmonary nodule
  • Transthoracic needle aspiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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