What is a biopsy?

A biopsy is the removal of a small sample of tissue for testing. After tissue is removed, it is sent to a lab where it is examined under a microscope or tested. Biopsies help diagnose infections, cancer, and other diseases. The type of biopsy you have depends on the part of the body and tissue needed.

Common types of biopsies are:

  • Skin biopsy. A skin biopsy is the removal of a piece of skin with different types of sharp tools. You may need stitches to close the skin if a large area is biopsied.
  • Needle biopsy. A needle biopsy is the removal of a small piece of tissue from your body with a needle. This method may be used, for example, for a breast or liver biopsy. This type of biopsy is done with a thin, hollow needle put through your skin into your body. X-rays or ultrasound may be used to put the needle in exactly the right place. A core biopsy is a type of needle biopsy that uses a larger needle to remove a solid piece of tissue.
  • Endoscopic biopsy, including laparoscopic biopsy. An endoscopic biopsy is the removal of a sample of tissue from your digestive system, lungs, bladder, or other organs. This type of biopsy is done with a small, lighted tube passed into your body through your mouth, rectum, or bladder. Laparoscopic biopsy uses a small, lighted tube put into the belly through a small cut to look at the organs and tissues inside the belly. It is also used to biopsy female organs such as the uterus (womb).
  • Surgical biopsy. A surgical biopsy is the removal of a sample of tissue from a part of your body. There are two main types of surgical biopsy:
    • An incisional biopsy, which is a cut through your skin to remove a small piece of tissue
    • An excisional biopsy, which is a cut through your skin to remove all of the tissue
  • Bone marrow biopsy. A bone marrow biopsy is the removal of tissue from the center of your bone. It may be done to look for bone problems and for some cancers of the blood, such as leukemia. This type of biopsy is done with a thin, hollow needle put through your skin and into your bone. Bone marrow is usually taken from your breastbone or your hipbone just below your waist.

You will be given medicine called anesthesia to keep you from feeling pain. Depending on the area where the biopsy is done, you may have local, regional, or general anesthesia.

  • Local anesthesia numbs only the part of your body where you will have the biopsy.
  • Regional anesthesia numbs a larger area of your body. Depending on the medicine, you may be awake or asleep during the procedure.
  • General anesthesia relaxes your muscles and you will be asleep.

How can I take care of myself?

Ask your healthcare provider what instructions you need to follow before the procedure. Your instructions may include:

  • Changes to how you take your medicines
  • What you can eat and drink before the biopsy
  • Getting other tests or procedures
  • Other steps to follow before surgery

Tell your healthcare provider if you have any food or medicine allergies. Also tell your provider about all medicines and supplements that you take.

Your provider may give you instructions to follow after the procedure. They may include:

  • Finding someone to give you a ride home after the procedure
  • Caring for your biopsy wound
  • Taking medicines to relieve pain, prevent infection, or treat other problems
  • Symptoms or problems to watch for and what to do if you have them
  • When you can return to your normal activities
  • When to come back for a checkup

Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-05-30
Last reviewed: 2013-10-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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