by Amy Scholten, MPH
A biopsy is the removal of a small area of tissue. The sample is then looked at under a microscope to see if there are any abnormal cells.
A biopsy may be taken from any part of the body.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
A biopsy may be done to look for the cause of unexplained:
It may be done as part of the diagnosis or to find out more details about a condition. For example, a biopsy may be done to determine if cancer is present. It may also show what type of cancer it is and how it may react to certain treatments.
Biopsies are not for cancer alone. There are a number of other medical conditions that are diagnosed with a biopsy such as:
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review problems that may happen, like:
Smoking may increase the risk of complications.
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Talk to your doctor about your medication. You may be asked to stop taking some medications before the procedure.
Avoid eating or drinking after midnight if you are going to have general anesthesia.
The type of anesthesia needed will depend on what tissue you are having removed. Options include:
Description of the Procedure TOP
The exact steps will depend on the type of biopsy that you are having. For example:
How Long Will It Take? TOP
A simple biopsy will usually only take a few minutes. A biopsy involving surgery takes longer. It may also be part of a larger surgery.
How Much Will It Hurt? TOP
You may have pain in the area where the sample was removed. Ask your doctor about medication to help with the pain.
Average Hospital Stay TOP
You will be able to go home after a simple biopsy. If your biopsy involved surgery, you may need to stay in the hospital for 1-2 days.
Post-procedure Care TOP
Recovery will depend on how much tissue was removed and where it is located. It may take 2-10 days for the results of the biopsy. Your doctor will discuss the results with you. Some results include :
Call Your Doctor TOP
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Cancer Society
American College of Surgeons
Biopsy. Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at:
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Accessed March 14, 2018.
Schoonjans JM, Brem RF. Fourteen-gauge ultrasonographically guided core-needle biopsy of breast masses. J Ultrasound Med. 2001;20(9):967-972.
6/3/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed... : Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 3/18/2013
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