Transbronchial needle aspirates: How many passes per target site?
Transbronchial needle aspiration is a bronchoscopic sampling method for a variety of bronchial and pulmonary lesions. The present study investigated whether and how serial needle passes contribute to the yield of transbronchial needle aspiration at specific target sites. A total of 1,562 needle passes, performed at 374 target sites in 245 patients with neoplastic disease (82%), non-neoplastic disease (15%) or undiagnosed lesions (3%), were prospectively recorded and rated for anatomical location, size, bronchoscopic appearance and underlying disease. Positive aspirates were obtained in 75% of patients and at 68% of target sites. A diagnosis was established with the first, second, third and fourth needle pass at 64, 87, 95 and 98% of targets, respectively. The absolute yield varied strongly with target site features, but the stepwise increment to the maximum yield provided by serial passes was similar across target sites. In conclusion, three transbronchial needle passes per site are appropriate when only a tissue diagnosis is sought and when alternative sites or sampling modalities are available. At least four or five passes should be carried out at lymph node stations critical for the staging of lung cancer. Copyright © ERS Journals Ltd 2007.