Lung Surgery: Your 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

Bronchoscopy gives a closer look at your breathing passages.

Imaging tests, which take pictures of your lungs, can detect problems such as a mass, an infection, or air in the pleural cavity (space between the lungs and the chest wall). However, they can’t tell the doctor for certain whether a lung mass is cancer. Imaging tests you may have include:

  • Chest x-rays
  • CT (computed tomography), also called CAT scans
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • PET (positron emission tomography)
  • Other imaging tests as needed

Visualization and Biopsy Tests

Visualization tests show the inside of your lungs and the area around your lungs. A biopsy of lung cells or tissue may also be examined later under a microscope. You’ll be told about anesthesia beforehand. 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 the chest wall or a bronchoscope to collect tissue or fluid.

Other Tests

You may have tests to measure how well your lungs work. They include:

  • Pulmonary function tests, which measure lung properties such as how much air your lungs can hold, and how much air is left in your lungs after you exhale. These also measure how fast you can blow air out of your lungs.
  • Pulse oximetry, which measures how much oxygen is passed from your lungs to your blood.
  • Arterial blood samples, which show how much oxygen is in your blood.