The findings in bronchial biopsy specimens obtained at fibreoptic bronchoscopy in 271 patients with bronchial carcinoma were reviewed. Fifty-nine per cent of 703 specimens taken from the site of bronchoscopically visible tumours in 215 patients provided evidence of carcinoma. Unequivocal histological evidence of carcinoma was obtained in 78.6% of the 215 patients with visible tumours. When only one biopsy specimen was taken evidence of carcinoma was obtained in 65.2% of cases. At least five biopsy specimens were required to provide a greater than 90% probability of obtaining at least one positive sample. The anatomical site of the tumour had no significant effect on the proportion of biopsy specimens that were positive or the frequency of obtaining at least one positive sample. When extrinsic bronchial compression was the only visible abnormality evidence of carcinoma was obtained by bronchial biopsy in 26.8% of 56 cases.
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