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Brain Biopsy


What you need to know about a brain biopsy:

A brain biopsy is a procedure to remove a sample of tissue from your brain or tumor. The sample can be tested for cancer, infection, or brain disease.

How to prepare for a brain biopsy:

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for your procedure. The provider may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your procedure. You may need to stop taking aspirin or blood thinner medicine several days before the procedure. Your provider will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure. The night before your procedure you may need to wash your hair with medicated shampoo. This will help prevent an infection.

What will happen during a brain biopsy:

  • You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during the procedure. You may instead be given local anesthesia to numb the area, and IV sedation. With local anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing during the procedure, but you should not feel any pain. IV sedation will help you relax during the procedure.
  • Your healthcare provider will make an incision in your head and drill a small hole in your skull. He or she will insert a needle through the hole and into your brain. MRI or CT pictures may be taken to help your provider find the tumor. The provider will remove pieces of the tumor with the needle. Your incision will be closed with stitches or staples. A bandage will be placed over your incision.

What will happen after a brain biopsy:

Healthcare providers will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, and neuro signs. Neuro signs, or neuro checks, show healthcare providers your brain function. They will check how your pupils react to light. They may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested. You may go home after your biopsy or may need to spend a night in the hospital. You may feel tired or dizzy, or have a headache. These symptoms should get better in a few days.

Risks of a brain biopsy:

You may get an infection or bleed more than expected. Nerves and blood vessels in your brain may be damaged during the biopsy. This may cause problems with your memory, speech, balance, or movement. You may develop a blood clot. This may become life-threatening.

Have someone else call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • You have a severe headache and a stiff neck.
  • You are confused.
  • You have changes in your vision.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • Your incision is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or you have a rash.
  • You continue to have a headache after you take your medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics help prevent a bacterial infection.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your incision as directed:

Ask your healthcare provider when your incision can get wet. Carefully wash around the incision with soap and water. Do not scrub your incision. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. Do not put hair spray, gel, or lotion on your scalp unless your healthcare provider says it is okay. Do not swim or take a bath until your healthcare provider says it is okay.


  • Keep your head elevated when you sleep. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your head on 2 to 3 pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably or sleep in a recliner.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can delay healing. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can make your headache or dizziness worse.


Rest as directed. Slowly return to your usual activities in 24 hours or as directed.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return for tests. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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