A needle biopsy is a procedure performed by interventional radiologists to identify the cause of a lump or mass, or other abnormal condition in the body. During the exam, a small needle is inserted into the abnormal area, guided to the abnormal area by CT scan or ultrasound imaging. A sample of tissue is removed and given to a pathologist who looks at it under a microscope to determine what the abnormality is, for example, cancer, a noncancerous tumor, infection, or scar.
At Medical Arts Radiology, we perform needle biopsies on several different areas within the body:
The most common reason for a needle biopsy is to identify the cause of an abnormality inside the body. Imaging exams such as mammography, ultrasound, CT scan, and MRI can find abnormal masses, but these tests alone do not always determine the problem. A needle biopsy can help determine the cause and give your doctor the information necessary to provide you with the best care and treatment.
Usually, no special preparation is required. Your doctor will tell you if any special diet or medication instructions are necessary for you.
The interventional radiologist will use some form of imaging guidance to place the biopsy needle. After sterilizing the skin insertion site, a local anesthetic is administered to numb the area. During insertion of the biopsy needle, patients may feel some pressure, but the procedure is not painful.
Using the biopsy needle the radiologist removes a small amount of tissue or some cells from the abnormal area, which is sent to a doctor called a pathologist, who will examine it under a microscope. Usually, the results of the biopsy are ready in 2-3 days.
Following the procedure, patients are observed in a comfortable recovery suite and are discharged with post-care instructions. Keep physical activity to a minimum for the remainder of the day after your biopsy. The biopsy site may be tender or sore for one to two days.
A needle biopsy is performed as an outpatient procedure, with patients going home either immediately afterwards, or within a few hours of the procedure.
A needle biopsy has few risks because a very small needle is used, and the procedure is performed with imaging guidance. Complications are very infrequent, with less than one percent of patients developing bleeding or infection.
In about 90 percent of patients, needle biopsy provides 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 all patients are different, and there are varied sites that may undergo biopsy, 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 the interventional radiologist before your procedure begins.
Before needle biopsies were possible, patients required surgery to remove tissue for examination and diagnosis. Today, needle biopsy is a safe and effective procedure, which, in most cases, can answer questions about your health without the need for a surgical biopsy.