Clinical Experience With Radiotracer-Guided Thoracoscopic Biopsy of Small, Indeterminate Lung Nodules

Brendon M. Stiles, Talissa A. Altes, David R. Jones, K. Robert Shen, Gorav Ailawadi, Spencer B. Gay, Juan Olazagasti, Patrice K. Rehm, Thomas M. Daniel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Background: Although computed tomography lung-screening programs report a 31% to 51% incidence of subcentimeter pulmonary nodules, 85% are too small to biopsy or interrogate with positron emission spectroscopy scans. We developed a technique using transthoracic percutaneous radiotracer injection with thoracoscopic radioprobe localization and excision for small pulmonary nodules. This report describes our series of the first 46 patients evaluated with this technique. Methods: Forty-six patients (79% smokers; 52% males; median age, 64 years) were evaluated. Patient selection was based on the surgeon's anticipated difficulty in thoracoscopically locating small nodules because of lesion size or location. Computed tomographic-guided injection of radiotracer solution was made into or adjacent to the nodule the day of surgery. Intraoperative gamma probe localization, followed by thoracoscopic excision of the lesion, was subsequently performed. Results: Median nodule size was 9 mm (range, 3 to 22 mm), and median depth was 5 mm (range, 0 to 50 mm). Forty-four (96%) of the lesions were successfully localized and excised. Median time from injection to surgery was 270 minutes. Failures were the result of inadvertent pleural or chest wall radiotracer placement. Forty-six percent (21 of 46) of the lesions were malignant, of which 71% (15 of 21) were primary lung cancers. Patients with lung cancer underwent lobectomy or segmentectomy. Fourteen of 15 were stage IA, whereas 1 was stage IIIB (6 mm primary with 4 mm intralobar metastasis). Complications were three pneumothoraces at the time of radiotracer injection. Conclusions: Computed tomography-guided radiotracer localization of small pulmonary nodules combined with thoracoscopic excisional biopsy is feasible and safe. This technique successfully localized and excised the nodule in 96% of cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1191-1197
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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