Background and study objective: Pneumothorax following flexible bronchoscopy (FB) with transbronchial biopsy (TBB) occurs in 1 to 6% of cases. Routine chest radiography (CXR) following TBB is therefore requested by most pulmonologists in an attempt to detect complications, particularly pneumothorax. The objective of this study was to determine if routine CXR after bronchoscopy and TBB is necessary.
Patients and method: The study group included 350 consecutive patients who underwent FB with TBB at our institution between December 2001 and January 2004. Routine CXR was performed up to 2 h after the procedure in all cases. Additionally, the following information was recorded in all patients: sex, age, immune status, indication for bronchoscopy, total number of biopsies done, segment sampled, pulse oxygen saturation, and development of symptoms suggestive of pneumothorax.
Results: Pneumothorax was diagnosed radiologically in 10 patients (2.9%). Seven patients had symptoms strongly suggestive of pneumothorax prior to CXR, including four patients with large (> 10%) pneumothorax. The other three patients were asymptomatic, with only minimal pneumothorax (≤ 10%), which resolved completely 24 to 48 h later.
Conclusions: We conclude that routine CXR after bronchoscopy with TBB is necessary only in patients with symptoms suggestive of pneumothorax. In asymptomatic patients, pneumothorax is rare and usually small, so routine CXR is not necessary in this category of patients.