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A Patient's Guide to Lung Surgery

Evaluation and Tests

To help your doctor evaluate your lungs and diagnose your condition, a variety of tests may be performed. You may already have had some of these tests, and others may be scheduled before your surgery. Your doctor uses the information gathered during these tests to help determine the best course of action for your condition.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests, which take pictures of your lungs, can detect problems such as a mass, an infection, or air in the pleural space. However, they can't tell the doctor whether a lung mass is benign or malignant. Imaging tests you may have include:

  • Chest x-rays
  • CT (computed tomography), also called CAT scans
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)


Visualization and Biopsy Tests

Visualization tests let your doctor look directly inside your lungs and at the area around your lungs. A biopsy of lung cells or tissue may also be used for later examination under a microscope. Possible tests include:

  • Bronchoscopy, which is done using a thin, lighted tube (bronchoscope) inserted through the nose or mouth to examine the breathing passages at the entrance to your lungs.
  • Mediastinoscopy, during which a tube is inserted through an incision above the breastbone to look at the area between the lungs.
  • Mediastinotomy, during which the lymph nodes in the chest are examined through an incision in the chest wall, and a biopsy may be done.
  • Needle biopsy, which involves insertion of a needle through a bronchoscope or the chest wall to collect tissue or fluid.

Pulmonary Function Tests

Pulmonary function tests measure how well your lungs are working. They include:

  • Spirometry, which measures how much air your lungs can hold.
  • Lung volume tests, which measure how much air is left in your lungs after you exhale.
  • Lung diffusion tests and pulse oximetry, which measure how much oxygen is passed from your lungs to your blood.



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