Air travel after biopsy-related pneumothorax: Is It Safe to Fly?

Alda Tam, Prachee Singh, Joe E. Ensor, Kristina Carter, Edward S. Kim, Marshall E. Hicks, Michael J. Wallace, Sanjay Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Purpose: To evaluate the safety of air travel after percutaneous transthoracic needle biopsy (PTNB). Materials and Methods: The study population included 179 patients who underwent 183 PTNBs followed by air travel within 14 days of the procedure. Patients were contacted after their flight and asked to complete a brief telephone survey that assessed for the development of respiratory symptoms during air travel. Results: No patient reported experiencing an in-flight medical event that required emergent, in-flight medical attention or flight diversion. Postbiopsy pneumothorax developed in 65 patients. Of patients with postbiopsy pneumothorax, including patients with radiographic evidence of residual pneumothorax, 50 (77%) traveled within 4 days of the final postbiopsy chest radiograph. Worsening of existing respiratory symptoms or the development of new respiratory symptoms during or after the flight was reported in 14 of 183 patients (8%). Conclusions: This study shows that air travel after biopsy-related pneumothorax can occur safely before radiographic resolution of pneumothorax and as soon as 24 hours after PTNB.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-602.e1
JournalJournal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011


  • PTNB
  • percutaneous transthoracic needle biopsy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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