by Amy Scholten, MPH
A biopsy is the removal of a sample of tissue or cells. The sample is examined under a microscope.
A biopsy may be taken from any part of the body.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
A biopsy is used to see if the cells from a sample of tissue are abnormal. A biopsy is done to rule out cancer and/or to specify its type and level of aggressiveness.
Biopsies are sometimes taken to find out the cause of an unexplained:
Common interpretations of biopsies include:
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Smoking may increase the risk of complications.
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the surgery.
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Talk to your doctor about your medication. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
Avoid eating or drinking after midnight if you are going to have general anesthesia.
The type of anesthesia used depends on what you are having biopsied:
Description of the Procedure TOP
For a simple biopsy, the area will be cleaned. A numbing medication will be injected into the area so that you will not feel pain. A piece of tissue will then be removed. The opening may need to be closed.
The procedure that your doctor uses will depend on the type of biopsy that you are having. For example:
How Long Will It Take? TOP
A simple biopsy usually takes a few minutes. A biopsy involving surgery takes longer.
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
Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions. If you have stitches, have them removed when instructed.
Call Your Doctor TOP
Contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
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 February 24, 2015.
Schoonjans JM, Brem RF. Fourteen-gauge ultrasonographically guided core-needle biopsy of breast masses. J Ultrasound Med. 2001;20:967-972.
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com : 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.e8.
Last reviewed February 2015 by Igor Puzanov, MD; Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 3/18/2013