Needle Biopsy Procedure

About the Needle Biopsy Procedure

A needle biopsy is a medical test that can identify the cause of an abnormality in your body. A specially trained doctor, known as an interventional radiologist, performs this procedure. During the procedure, the interventional radiologist inserts a small needle into the abnormal area and removes a sample of the tissue or fluid which is given to a pathologist, who examines it under a microscope. The pathologist can determine whether the abnormal tissue is a non-cancerous tumor, cancer, and infection, or scar.

The most common reason for a needle biopsy is to identify the cause of an abnormality inside the body. Imaging test, such as mammography, ultrasound, CAT scan, and MRI, can find abnormal areas, but these tests alone do not always determine what the problem is. The needle biopsy can help determine the cause, and give your doctor needed information to provide you with the best care and treatment.

Before needle biopsies were possible, biopsy surgery was needed to remove tissue for examination. Needle biopsies often can answer questions about your health without this surgery.

How to Prepare for a Needle Biopsy:
Usually, no special preparation is needed. You will probably be sent by your physician for blood work prior to the biopsy. The radiology nursing staff will review the results and give you a call 24-48 hours before your procedure with instructions. Usually you are instructed not to eat or drink for 6 hours prior to your procedure. Your physician will give medication instructions, if necessary.

In most cases, you will be an outpatient when you have a needle biopsy. You will arrive at the Short Term Care Unit for your appointment time and return there after the procedure. The needle biopsy itself usually takes about an hour.

Your medical history will be reviewed. An intravenous line will be inserted for fluids and medication if necessary before you are transported to the radiology department.

If you are already a patient in the hospital, your nurses and doctors will give you instructions on how to prepare for your biopsy.

During Your Needle Biopsy:
First, the interventional radiologist will use some form of imaging (CT, MRI, ultrasound, or mammography) to determine the best site for the biopsy. Next, a member of the interventional radiology team will wash the area where the needle biopsy will be performed and put local anesthetic in the skin and deeper tissues to numb the area.

The interventional radiologist will then use CAT scan or some other imaging to guide a small needle into the abnormal area. You may feel some pressure during the procedure.

The radiologist will use the biopsy needle to remove a tiny piece of tissue or some cells from the abnormal area. The tissue sample is sent to a doctor called a pathologist, who will examine it under a microscope. Usually, the results of the biopsy are ready in two to three days.

After Your Needle Biopsy:
After your biopsy, you will be asked to stay in the hospital for a brief time so the staff can make sure you are all right. Most people go home between one and four hours after their biopsy. You will need a ride home by a friend of family member.

Keep physical activity to a minimum for the remainder of the day after your biopsy. The biopsy area may be sore or tender for one to two days.

Potential Risks:
A needle biopsy has few risks because such a small needle is used. Complications are very infrequent; less than one percent of patients develop bleeding or infection.

In about 90% of patients, needle biopsies provide enough information for the pathologist to determine the cause of the abnormality. Occasionally, you may be asked to return for a second needle biopsy, or a surgeon may need to do an operation to get the tissue sample.

Because everyone is different, there may be risks associated with your needle biopsy that are not mentioned here. The exact risks will be discussed with you in more detail by a member of the interventional radiology team before your procedure begins.

Care Locations

  • Jersey Shore University Medical Center, 1945 Route 33, Neptune, NJ 07753

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