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Needle Biopsy

What is a needle biopsy?
It is a medical test that helps identify the cause of an abnormal lump or mass in your body. This procedure is performed in the Radiology Department by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist. A small needle is inserted into the abnormal area and a sample of tissue is removed, which is then given to a pathologist to examine under a microscope. The pathologist can determine if the abnormal tissue is cancer, non-cancerous tumor, infection or scar.

What is the purpose of a needle biopsy?
Imaging tests, such as CAT scan (CT), ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and mammography, can find abnormal masses, but these tests alone cannot always tell you what the lump or mass is. In order to provide you with the best care and proper treatment, your doctor needs this additional information.

What do I do to prepare for the biopsy?
In most cases, you will be an outpatient when you have the biopsy. You will come to the Outpatient Registration Center two hours before your appointment time to register, get necessary labs drawn (which some lab tests take 1-2 hours to get results), and in some instances an intravenous (IV) line will be started. You will be notified if any special diet or medication instructions are to be followed. You will return home after the procedure. Wear comfortable clothes. You may bring something to read or a headset radio with you.

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

What is a needle biopsy like and will it hurt?
With the aid of some form of imaging (such as live x-rays, CT, ultrasound, or mammography) the interventional radiologist will determine the best site for the biopsy. The radiologist will then clean the area where the biopsy is going to be performed and put a local anesthetic into the skin and deeper tissues to numb the area. In some instances, an IV will be started so that the interventional radiologist can give you fluids and medicines during the biopsy.

The radiologist will then put a small needle into the mass or lump. The doctor will take an image of the biopsy area during the procedure to make sure the needle is in the right place. Some pressure may occur during the test. A tiny piece of tissue or some cells from the mass are obtained through the biopsy needle. The test itself usually takes around one hour. The tissue or cell sample is sent to the laboratory and a pathologist will examine the sample under a microscope. It usually takes 2-3 days for the biopsy results.

What do I do after the biopsy?
If you are an Outpatient:
You will be taken to an outpatient recovery area to stay and be observed for 2-4 hours. As long as there are no complications, most people go home after 2-4 hours. Take things easy for the rest of the day. It is not uncommon to be sore in the biopsy area for 1-2 days.

If you are an Inpatient:
You will be observed for 2-4 hours and then resume your previous routine.

What are the risks of having a needle biopsy?
Because such a small needle is used, there are very few risks to a biopsy. Fewer than 1% of all patients develop bleeding or infection. Complications are very infrequent. The interventional radiologist will discuss the risks in detail with you before he starts the test.

Occasionally, you may be asked to return for a second needle biopsy or a surgeon may have to do an operation to get the tissue or cell sample. About 90% of the needle biopsies provide enough information for the pathologist to determine the cause of the mass or lump.

What are the benefits of having a needle biopsy?
In the past, surgery was needed to remove tissue to be examined, but now with the aid of a needle biopsy, your health question can be answered without surgery.

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