Ultrasound-Guided Needle Biopsy of Neck Lymph Nodes in Patients With Suspected Lung Cancer: Are the Specimens Sufficient for Complete Pathologic Evaluation to Guide Patient Management?

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The purpose of this study is to determine the ability of ultrasound guided needle biopsy of a neck lymph node to provide adequate tissue for complete pathologic evaluation of suspected metastatic lung cancer, including molecular testing for epidermal growth factor receptor gene mutations by pyrosequencing and anaplastic lymphoma kinase gene rearrangement by fluorescence in situ hybridization.


Institutional review board approval was obtained and the requirement for informed consent was waived. All ultrasound guided neck biopsies performed July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2015, were retrospectively reviewed, and all biopsies performed for suspected lung cancer metastatic to supraclavicular and cervical lymph nodes were included.


Forty patients with suspected lung cancer underwent ultrasound-guided needle biopsy of an abnormal appearing neck lymph node identified on preprocedure computed tomography or positron emission tomography/computed tomography. Thirty-seven patients were subsequently diagnosed with lung cancer and 3 were diagnosed with lymphoma. A definitive pathologic diagnosis was rendered in 95% of neck node biopsies (38/40; 95% confidence interval, 84%–99%). Of the 36 specimens diagnostic for lung cancer, 16 were considered for further molecular testing and the specimen was adequate for molecular testing in 15 (94%; 73%–100%) cases. Therefore, the neck node biopsy specimens were adequate for complete pathologic workup in 93% (37/40; 81%–98%). No complications related to the biopsies were observed.


In patients presenting with suspected lung cancer and suspicious neck lymph nodes, ultrasound-guided needle biopsy frequently provides adequate tissue for complete pathologic evaluation and eliminates the need for more invasive procedures.

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