BACKGROUND: Transbronchial lung cryobiopsy (TBLC) has been introduced as an alternative to surgical lung biopsy (SLB) in the diagnostics of interstitial lung diseases (ILD). Despite controversy on safety, TBLC is increasingly implemented in ILD centers with an apparent diagnostic yield comparable to SLB. The aim of this study was to assess TBLC implementation experiences from a tertiary Danish ILD center regarding diagnosis, complications, and learning curves for TBLC performance.
METHODS: TBLC was prospectively performed in a cohort of patients with unclassifiable ILD based on a preceding multidisciplinary clinical and radiological revision. TBLC was performed as an outpatient procedure with the patients in general anesthesia using a flexible bronchoscope with 1.9 or 2.4 mm cryoprobes. Learning curves for TBLC performance were calculated using cumulated sum (CUSUM) scores for diagnostic yield, pneumothorax, and bleeding.
RESULTS: From February 2017 to March 2020 141 patients (86 (61%) men, median age 69 years [IQR, 60-74 years]) had TBLC performed. A histological and confirmative diagnosis was made in 101 patients (75.2%) and 124 patients (87.9%, i.e. clinical diagnostic yield), respectively, in whom idiopathic interstitial pneumonias constituted the majority (67.3%) of the clinical diagnoses. We observed 2 deaths (1.4%) within 30 days of TBLC, but no procedure-related mortality or severe bleeding. Moderate bleeding occurred in 23 patients (16.3%), pneumothorax in 21 patients (14.9%) with only 14 patients (9.9%) requiring a pleural drain. Based on the CUSUM score analysis, the diagnostic yield obtained was satisfactory throughout the period.
CONCLUSION: This study reports experiences of outpatient TBLC implementation in a tertiary referral ILD center from the largest investigated TBLC cohort in Scandinavia The diagnostic yield and prevalence of complications obtained by TBLC from this single center study on unclassifiable ILD support outpatient TBLC as a valuable and safe alternative to SLB to diagnose ILD in well-selected patients. The learning curves for TBLC were acceptable in the hands of experienced bronchoscopists.