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Lymph Node Biopsy
(Biopsy, Lymph Node)
by Patricia Griffin Kellicker, BSN
Lymph nodes are found throughout the body. They are part of the body’s immune system. These nodes help fight infection by producing special white blood cells. They also work by trapping bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. Normally, lymph nodes cannot be felt unless they are swollen. Infection, usually by a virus, is the most common cause of lymph node swelling. Other causes include bacterial infection and cancer.
With this type of biopsy, the doctor removes and examines all or part of a lymph node.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
This biopsy is done to find out why a node is swollen. It can also be done to see if there are cancer cells in the lymph node.
Common areas for biopsy include:
Possible Complications TOP
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a lymph node biopsy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Leading up to your procedure, you will need to:
Description of the Procedure TOP
Lymph nodes samples can be obtained by:
There are 2 types of needle biopsies:
An open biopsy means removing the lymph nodes through an incision. A cut will be made in the skin. All or part of a lymph node will be removed. After removal, the incision will be closed with stitches and bandaged.
Immediately After Procedure TOP
The sample will be sent to the lab for examination.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
About 30-60 minutes—longer if an ultrasound or CT scan is used
How Much Will It Hurt? TOP
You will have some pain and tenderness after the biopsy is taken. Your doctor may give you pain medication.
Post-procedure Care TOP
Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions. Results will be ready in about a week. Your doctor will tell you if further treatment is needed.
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
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
Cancer Care Ontario
Sentinel lymph node biopsy. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated August 11, 2011. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Testing biopsy and cytology specimens for cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed February 24, 2015
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardMohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated: 3/18/2013
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