A retrospective study was performed to evaluate the diagnostic yield for lung cancer from histological biopsy specimens and from washings and brushings for cytological examination taken at fibreoptic bronchoscopy. The records of 680 bronchoscopies were analysed. Of 300 patients eventually diagnosed as having a malignant lesion, 188 had had biopsy, washing, and brushing. Of these, 125 had endoscopically visible tumour (group A) and 63 had no abnormal findings or abnormal findings that were not diagnostic of malignancy (group B). In group A biopsy specimens gave a positive result in 76% of cases, washings in 49.6%, and brushings in 52%; biopsy material gave the only positive result in 22.4% of cases, washings in 2.2%, and brushings in 4.8%. In group B biopsy specimens were positive in 36.5%, washings in 38.1%, and brushings in 28.6%; biopsy gave the only positive result in 11.1% of cases, washing in 9.5%, and brushing in 3.2%. Washing had a higher diagnostic yield than brushing in group B. Biopsy and cytological examination of either washings or brushings were found to give over 95% of all positive results in group A, but in group B the combination of biopsy and washing was more often successful (94.3%) than biopsy and brushing (82.8%). It is concluded that for the maximum diagnostic yield in the diagnosis of lung cancer biopsy should be combined with cytology using both washings and brushings.
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