BACKGROUND: Use of the flexible needle via the fibreoptic bronchoscope to aspirate mediastinal nodes or masses has largely superseded the use of the rigid needle via the rigid bronchoscope. However, the yield at fibreoptic bronchoscopy is relatively low, although this improves with the use of a wider gauge needle. In this study the sensitivity and the safety of rigid needle sampling of the mediastinum in the diagnosis of lung cancer is evaluated. METHODS: Transtracheal needle aspiration (TTNA) was performed with the rigid bronchoscope and a rigid aspiration needle under general anaesthesia using a previous computed tomographic (CT) scan as a guide to the sample site. A cytopathologist immediately examined the specimens for adequacy and preliminary diagnosis, thus determining the number of aspirations. RESULTS: Twenty four patients were evaluated. The diagnostic sensitivity of TTNA was 88%. This led to a management decision in 21 patients. There were no false positives and no complications. CONCLUSIONS: TTNA using the rigid bronchoscope with CT scanning and a cytopathologist present is a sensitive and safe way of diagnosing lung cancer in patients with a mediastinal mass or enlarged mediastinal nodes.
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