A needle biopsy is a procedure to obtain a sample of cells from your body for laboratory testing. Common needle biopsy procedures include fine-needle aspiration and core needle biopsy. Needle biopsy may be used to take tissue or fluid samples from muscles, bones, and other organs, such as the liver or lungs.
Why it’s done
Your doctor may suggest a needle biopsy to help diagnose a medical condition or to rule out a disease or condition. A needle biopsy may also be used to assess the progress of a treatment.
The sample from your needle biopsy may help your doctor determine what’s causing:
- A mass or lump. A needle biopsy may reveal whether a mass or lump is a cyst, an infection, a benign tumor or cancer.
- An infection. Analysis from a needle biopsy can help doctors determine what germs are causing an infection so that the most effective medications can be used.
- Inflammation. A needle biopsy sample may reveal what’s causing inflammation, and what types of cells are involved.
You may also undergo imaging tests, such as a computerized tomography (CT) scan or an ultrasound, before your needle biopsy. Sometimes these tests are also used during the needle biopsy procedure to more accurately locate the area to be biopsied.
Needle biopsy carries a small risk of bleeding and infection at the site where the needle was inserted. Some mild pain can be expected after needle biopsy, though it is usually controlled with over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications.
Call your doctor if you experience:
- Pain at the biopsy site that worsens or isn’t helped by medications
- Swelling at the biopsy site
- Drainage from the biopsy site
- Bleeding that doesn’t stop with pressure or a bandage
How you prepare
Most needle biopsy procedures don’t require any preparation on your part.
However, you may be asked to stop taking blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin) or aspirin, in the days before your biopsy. Depending on what part of your body will be biopsied, your doctor may ask you not to eat or drink before the procedure.
Preparing for sedation or general anesthesia
In certain cases, you may receive intravenous (IV) sedatives or general anesthetics before your needle biopsy. If this is the case, your doctor may ask that you fast the day before your procedure. Tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking, as you may need to stop taking certain medications before undergoing anesthesia.
You won’t be able to return to work immediately if your needle biopsy is done during IV sedation or general anesthesia. Depending on your duties, you may be able to return to work in 24 hours. Talk to your doctor about when it’s safe to return to work.
Make arrangements or ask friends or family to:
- Drive you home
- Stay with you for 24 hours
- Help with household chores for a day or two