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Rectal biopsy

A rectal biopsy is a procedure to remove a small piece of rectal tissue for examination.

How is the Test Performed?

A rectal biopsy is usually part of anoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.

A digital rectal exam is done first. Then, a lubricated instrument (anoscope or proctoscope) is placed into the rectum. You will feel some discomfort when this is done.

A biopsy can be taken through any of these instruments.

Preparation for the Test

You may get a laxative, enema, or other preparation before the biopsy so that you can completely empty your bowel. This will allow the doctor a clear view of the rectum.

How the Test will Feel

There will be some discomfort during the procedure. You may feel like you need to have a bowel movement. You may feel cramping or mild discomfort as the instrument is placed into the rectal area. You may feel a pinch when a biopsy is taken.

Why is the Test Performed?

A rectal biopsy is used to determine the cause of abnormal growths found during anoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or other tests. It can also be used to confirm the diagnosis of amyloidosis.

Normal Results for Rectal biopsy

The anus and rectum appear normal in size, color, and shape. There should be no evidence of:

No problems are seen when the biopsy tissue is examined under a microscope.

What Abnormal Results Mean

This test is a common way to determine the specific causes of abnormal conditions of the rectum, such as:

There is some risk of bleeding and tearing.


Fry RD, Mahmoud NN, Maron, Bleier JIS. Colon and rectum. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 52.

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Review Date: 10/27/2014
Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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