Clinical feature of diagnostic challenging cases for pleural biopsy in patient with malignant pleural mesothelioma



Pleural biopsy through video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS pleural biopsy) is the most reliable diagnostic procedure for malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). However, definitive diagnosis of MPM is occasionally difficult to establish. This study aims to investigate clinicopathological features of MPM patients who failed diagnosis by the first VATS pleural biopsy.


Four hundred consecutive patients with suspected MPM who received VATS pleural biopsy between March 2004 and July 2017 were enrolled in this retrospective study. Patients, whose histological diagnoses were not definitive in the first VATS pleural biopsy, were followed up as atypical mesothelial proliferation (AMP) or non-specific pleuritis (NSP). Re-examination was performed in cases strongly suspected of having MPM.


Of the 400 patients, 267 (66.8%) were pathologically diagnosed with MPM, 25 with metastatic carcinoma and 6 with benign pleural disease by the first VATS pleural biopsy. Of the remaining 102 patients diagnosed with AMP or NSP, 10 patients (9.8%) were subsequently diagnosed with MPM. Analysis of the clinical course revealed that only insufficient tissue for diagnosis was obtained via VATS pleural biopsy in all cases and that it was caused by very early stage without visible tumour in 4 patients, intrathoracic inflammation in 4 and desmoplastic MPM in 2.


In our review, 9.8% of patients diagnosed with AMP or NSP in first VATS pleural biopsy were subsequently diagnosed with MPM due to insufficient tissue for diagnosis. Definitive diagnosis via VATS pleural biopsy is sometimes challenging in following situation; very early stage, intrathoracic inflammation and desmoplastic MPM.

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We thank Miss Risa Murata for her secretarial skills. The authors thank Enago ( for the English language review.


This study was funded by the Department of Thoracic Surgery, Hyogo College of Medicine.

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Correspondence to Masaki Hashimoto.

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Hashimoto, M., Sato, A., Kuroda, A. et al. Clinical feature of diagnostic challenging cases for pleural biopsy in patient with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Gen Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 68, 820–827 (2020).

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  • Malignant pleural mesothelioma
  • Pleural biopsy
  • Non-specific pleuritis