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Lymph Node Biopsy


What you need to know about a lymph node biopsy:

Lymph nodes are tiny round organs that help trap and fight infection. A biopsy is a procedure to remove all or part of a lymph node. After a lymph node is removed, it can be tested for infection, cancer, and other medical conditions. The results of these tests can help your healthcare provider decide if you need more tests or treatments.

How to prepare for a lymph node biopsy:

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for your biopsy. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your biopsy. He or she will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your biopsy. You may need to stop taking blood thinners or aspirin several days before your biopsy. You may be given contrast liquid or need MRI pictures during your biopsy. Tell your healthcare provider if you have an allergy to contrast liquid. Do not enter the biopsy room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body. Arrange for someone to drive you home and stay with you after your biopsy.

What will happen during a lymph node biopsy:

The type of biopsy may depend on the location of the lymph node or nodes to be removed.

  • In a needle biopsy, you may be given local anesthesia to numb the biopsy area. With local anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing during your procedure, but you should not feel any pain. You may also be given IV sedation to help you relax during the procedure. Your healthcare provider may use ultrasound, x-ray, MRI, or CT pictures to help find your lymph node. Once the lymph node is found, he or she will insert a needle into the lymph node and remove cells. Your healthcare provider may decide to have the cells tested immediately. He or she will remove the needle and cover the area with a bandage.
  • In an open biopsy, you may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain. Your healthcare provider will make a small incision and remove part or all of the lymph node. Your healthcare provider may decide to have the lymph node tested immediately. Depending on the results, he or she may take more lymph nodes. When he or she is finished, he or she will close the incision with stitches or strips of medical tape. He or she will cover the closed incision with a bandage.

What will happen after a lymph node biopsy:

Healthcare providers will monitor you until you are awake. You may be able to go home when you are awake and your pain is controlled. You may have swelling and bruising at the biopsy site. This is normal and expected.

Risks of a lymph node biopsy:

You may develop an infection or bleed more than expected. Nerves may be damaged during the biopsy. You may have swelling (lymphedema) if a group of lymph nodes are removed. This swelling may be permanent.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • Your bruise suddenly gets larger and feels hard.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • Your wound is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • You have nausea or are vomiting.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or you have a rash.
  • Your pain does not get better after you take medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • 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 wound as directed:

Ask your healthcare provider when your biopsy site can get wet. Carefully wash around the biopsy site with soap and water. It is okay to let soap and water gently run over your biopsy site. Do not scrub your biopsy site. Gently pat dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. If you have strips of medical tape, let them fall of on their own. It may take 10 to 14 days for them to fall off. Check your biopsy site every day for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus. Do not put powders or lotions on your biopsy site. If lymph nodes have been taken from your armpit, ask your healthcare provider when you can wear deodorant.


  • Apply ice on your biopsy site for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your skin. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Elevate your arm or leg nearest to the biopsy site as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your arm or leg on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated above the level of your heart comfortably.

  • Do not do strenuous activities for 24 to 48 hours. Strenuous activities include heavy lifting, sports, or running. If lymph nodes were taken from your armpit, do not push or pull with your arm. These activities may put too much stress on your biopsy site. Rest and take short walks around the house. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to your normal activities.
  • Drink plenty of liquids as directed. This will help flush out contrast liquid from your body. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent lymphedema and infection:

Lymphedema is fluid buildup in fatty tissues under your skin. Lymphedema may happen where lymph nodes were removed or in the arm or leg closest to this area. An infection in your skin can make lymphedema worse. Ask your healthcare provider how you can decrease your risk for skin infections and lymphedema.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need more 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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