British Lung Foundation
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Question about VATS lung biopsy

Hi again all!

Well I saw the consultant on Monday and was advised that my VQ scan showed I don't have a problem with the the blood supply in/to the lungs.That was really good news. However, I have now to go into hospital for a lung biopsy.

In order that we can get enough lung tissue sample to aid diagnosis the consultant wants to have a VATS lung biopsy done, rather than a thorascopic lung biopsy. He is referring me to a thoracic surgeon at the Golden Jubilee Hospital.

I'm just wondering if anyone has had this done? Is there much pain involved? How was the recovery? How long was your hospital stay?

I'd be very grateful for your comments


15 Replies

Hello Anne

I too am due to have a VATS lung biopsy. I am having it done in May at City Hospital Nottingham. I have been advised by the surgeon that I should expect a stay of 4 - 5 nights and a recovery time of six weeks 'ish'.

I have been researching too and am keen to find out more of what to expect (not sure if that is always a good thing).

I did have a thorascopic biopsy but unfortunately it proved to be inconclusive - I am hoping this will once and for all provide diagnosis as I really don't want to have another general.

If you do find out anything, I would be grateful if you could post your findings.

I do hope things go well for you, I will post again once I am home.



Hi Louise,

It's good to hear from someone who is going to go through the same procedure.

I don't have a date as yet for the operation as I was only told last Monday (23rd) that this is the next test I am having to try to get a diagnosis. As no doubt you have, I've had several tests carried out already - Blood tests, X-rays, ECGs, Echocardiogram, Cardiopulmonary Function tests, CT scan, VQ scan (I can't remember if there are others!). The consultant decided to skip the thorascopic biopsy and go straight for a VATS biopsy. I will admit to being pretty nervous about the procedure, but I'm also keen to get on with it to try to get to the bottom of what's causing my problems.

I am going to be going to the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank (Scotland) which does have patient leaflets online for different procedures. It does say to expect to be in for five-seven days, but there are conflicting reports online so I wondered if I was misunderstanding something! Seems like it does correspond to what you've been quoted though. The six(ish) weeks recovery time is a bit of surprise. I had hoped it was shorter than that as I hope to be back at work maybe two weeks after the procedure as I have already had a prolonged period of time off work. Oh well, I shall just have to wait and see how I get on I guess :)

As far as research goes, if you google" NHS VATS lung biopsy" several UK hospitals have put patient leaflets online. I found these useful to learn about the actual procedure and things that would happen before and afterwards, e.g. the chest drains, pain relief etc. It's just that I would like to hear "from the horse's mouth", so to speak, about how it actually feels for the patient:)

I look forward to hearing how you get on and wish you well.I also hope you get that diagnosis you need!

Best wishes and good luck Louise,



Dear Anne and Louise,

Yes, I had a VATS biopsy 2 yrs ago. I had a general anaesthetic and when I woke up post op, I was given o2 and very good pain relief. I was up and walking in about 14 hours and home in less than 48hours. I was glad to have someone around when I showered and to make cups of tea as I was very tired and did have pain in my chest for a short while. I missed the adjustable hospital bed but managed with 4/5 pillows.

Rest, take pain relief.The drain was removed before I came home and wasn't a problem. Try to stay mobile because you will clear your chest better. I wish you both a good experience, everyone is so kind. Will be thinking of you both.


Dear Rev 70,

Many thanks for your response. It's good to know that you were home after less than 48 hours. I hope the same is true of me.

I'm lucky in that I still have an adult son and daughter at home,so I do have some help available - particularly to make those cups of tea :)

I'll make sure to take the prescribed painkillers - I have no intention of being a martyr to the pain,believe me!

Thanks once again,



Anne & Louise

Glad to see you have had some response to your question although am still wondering what is precisely a VAT scan is!

Have a chat to the people of the BLF helpline as they may be able to throw more light on the matter for you

Good luck to both and do keep us in the loop as how you get on



Hi Mulie,

It's not a VAT scan, its a VATS (Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery) Lung Biopsy.

Basically, it's really "keyhole" surgery performed under general anaesthetic to take a biopsy from the lung. They put a breathing tube down into one of your lungs and deflate the other lung,from which they take a biopsy. You have a chest drain inserted for a while after the operation.

I believe you spend a few days in hospital and it can be quite painful afterwards. It's more invasive than say a needle biopsy or a thorasoscopic biopsy, where they put a tube down your throat to get to the lung, but gives a better result when larger samples are needed. At least that's how I understand it!

I'll definitely let you know how I get on :)




Hi Anne I had a VATS biopsy early in 2009 together with a muscke biopsy. My chest consultant was present in theatre with the surgeon who conducted the operation. I had a bed booked in HDU in case I needed it.

As it turned out I did need it because they had trouble regulating my sats afterwards. I was in there for 48hours then back on the ward for 3 days until oxygen could be arranged for my use at home.

The diagnosis was what they thought t would be :(. I have been stable since then albeit with the help of O2. The operation itself was relatively pain free although I do have a high pain threshold and it didn't take anywhere near 6 weeks for recovery. I think recovery all depends upon the patient, some recover faster than others. The district nurse came to my home a couple of times to change the dressing but the wound itself didnt even have a suture it was glued. I did feel tired for a few days but I think most anaesthetics have that effect on people.

Good luck



Hi Maureen,

Thanks for taking the time to give your very helpful reply :)

I hope that I do recover fairly quickly, like you - I will try to maintain a positive attitude and see what happens anyway. I just hope that I can finally get a diagnosis!

I hope you're keeping as well as possible, given your conditon.

Take care and thanks again,



Ouch! So that's what they mean by staples!


Oh I see...I thought I had read it was done by staples, but I must have misunderstood.

Thanks for that!


Hi Anne

I hope you are well.

I have now had my biopsy and am at home taking things easy.

I was in hospital for 4 nights, high dependancy for 1 night and a surgical ward for the other 3. It was the most painful when the chest drain was in but once removed, things were alot more comfortable, thanks to the very strong painkillers.

I have been at home for two weeks and am feeling much better, I have three wounds, two of which have healed. The one wound which is still open is by my ribs, the district nurse has said this could take a further three weeks to heal (twice weekly visits to have it dressed with honey).

The pain that I do have is where the camera went in through my ribs, the surgeon said it is common to have nerve damage. Everyones pain tolerance is different and I am a baby.

Do take a camisole or sports bra with you - one of the wounds is in an awkward place, the nurses told me not to wear an underwired bra to come home.

It certainly wasn't as bad as I was expecting. Please feel free to ask any questions.




Hi Louise,

I'm glad to hear that your procedure is over - and that it wasn't as bad as you were anticipating.

The respiratory consultant did warn me about the nerve damage/pain afterwards, it does indeed seem to be quite common.

It's very interesting to hear that your wound is being treated with honey. Funnily enough, I was watching a programme about Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital the other day and the doctors were talking about a patient whose wound wasn't healing. One older doctor told them to pack the wound with sugar!

You mentioned the problem with bras. Strangely enough I was just saying to my daughter yesterday that wearing a bra may cause a problem afterwards. I will get myself a couple of sports bras, as you suggested. The camisoles would be more comfortable for when I go home,no doubt. However, I wouldn't feel confident enough to wear one if out and about! :)

I haven't as yet got a date from the hospital. However, the respiratory consultant wasn't going to write to the thoracic surgeon until he got one final blood result. The blood result was expected to take a week, then he would have to read it and then write to the surgeon, after which the surgeon would have to see the letter and so on. This would all probably take around two weeks from when I saw respiratory. So, really I've only been waiting for about three weeks to hear from the hospital. I'm just hoping that a letter or file hasn't gone missing somewhere and I've not been referred yet! Although I am quite scared of the procedure I don't want it delayed - just want to get it over with as quickly as possible. Don't get me wrong, I realise that if I was an urgent case it would be done as a priority so in a way it's reassuring that I've not been rushed in!

I am so happy to hear that you are feeling much better and I hope your results are through, or will shortly be through, so that at least you have an idea of what's going on.

Many thanks for remembering to post about your experience, it's much appreciated. :)

Take care,



Hi, I had VATS on the 26th November. Not to painful as I had a morphine PCA. (patient controlled analgesia). I was in hospital for 2 nights. When the chest drain is removed its far more comfortable.


I guess my experience was the exception to the rule unfortunately. I had three procedures at once including a broncosopy (my third) and the VATS. To begin with, the broncosopy was to biopsy my lymph nodes which proceeded to 'leak' a great deal so they had a nurse sit by my bed to monitor me. I'm told I was leaking a quart a day and they might need to open me again. They had to keep me in intensive care for 2 days. I was then moved to a closely monitored room for two days with a nurse staying in the room to monitor 4 of us. Finally, I was moved to a regular room for 2 days. I was on morphine and Tylenol 3s (paracetamol 3) for 5 days and down to 2 paracetamol 3s every 4 hours for the next 6 weeks. The chest tube was removed on day 6... It had already grown in when they tore it out. Most painful experience of my life. It has now been 4.5 months. I think my rib was cracked during the procedure as it is still quite painful. There is nerve damage on the front right side of my abdomen that, as strange as this sounds, is both numb and painful. It's numb on the outside and painful inside. As I said though, this appears to be the exception to the rule and I've only heard from a few people who had up to a six month recovery period. Most recover well and quickly. Best of luck to you!


I had my Vat Lung biopsy just 10 days ago but I have same as you pain inside and numb outside, and the nerve damage as well, is really painful, hope to be better in a couple of weeks.


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