If your elder parent was recently diagnosed with a shadow or possible tumor in the lung, their physician may call for a procedure called a “lung biopsy”. A lung biopsy is a method of obtaining a small sample from an infected tissue and examining the cells beneath a microscope to determine if the cells are cancerous. This procedure is done by inserting a fine needle through the skin and directly into the lung.
Your parent’s physician will schedule the lung biopsy at a local hospital, which can be done on an outpatient basis. For adult children accompanying a elderly parent to the hospital, this is what you can expect the day of the procedure:
Before the surgery
Upon arriving at the hospital, the first step will be to check in at the admission desk. The admission clerk will ask for a picture identification and copies of both insurance card and Medicare card. The patient will also be asked to sign a “consent for treatment” form.
The patient and care giver will then be directed or transported to the medical imaging (X-ray) department. Before a lung biopsy, all patients have a chest X-ray taken which gives the physician in charge of the biopsy a “baseline” reading of the chest. Adult children can accompany senior parents into the X-ray area to help them change into gowns, bring them to the rest room, and physically support them as they are arranged in front of the X-ray machine.
From the X-ray lab, your parent is then transported to the outpatient area. It is here where the nurse checks the patient in, and the physician explains how the procedure will be done. He also discusses the possible risks which include infection, bleeding, an allergic reaction to the anesthesia and the risk of a collapsed lung. While the procedure itself last only 10 minutes, it’s because of these risks that a lung biopsy patient remains in the recovery room for at least 4 hours after surgery.
Adult children are permitted to accompany their parent into the outpatient area to help answer medical questions and provide support. However, once the patient is wheeled to the procedure room, caregivers are asked to wait in the visitor waiting area until summoned by the nurse.
During the surgery
The biopsy really is a very simple procedure. The physician begins by anesthetizing the skin, and then carefully inserts a needle into the lung while following the path of the needle via a scan. One he retrieves a cell sample, the needle is withdrawn. Half an hour after the biopsy, a second set of chest X-rays are taken, and the patient is returned to the outpatient recovery area.
After the surgery
In the case of my mother, her nurse kept sis and I out of the outpatient area for about two hours. This was to prevent Mom from talking which might cause her to breathe deeply, something which was to be avoided. After a third set of chest X-rays, she was finally released to go home.
Discharge instructions included not talking for remainder of the day, and minimum activity for the next day or so.
For an adult child who accompanies a parent to the hospital, it’s wise to plan for at least a five to six hour stay when your parent has been scheduled for a lung biopsy procedure. Other things that you might find helpful is a small overnight bag for your parent in case your parent will need to spend the night, comfortable walking shoes and comfortable clothes for yourself, a sack lunch, and a novel or paperback book since you will spend a great deal of time in waiting.