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Needle Biopsy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 1, 2023.


What you need to know about a needle biopsy:

Biopsies may be taken from anywhere in your body. Examples include an organ such as your liver or lung, a muscle, or skin. The tissue can be sent to the lab and tested for cancer or infection. If you have had an organ transplant, tissue from the organ can be tested for organ rejection. There are 2 types of needle biopsies. A fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy removes a small sample of cells, tissue, or fluid from a tumor. An FNA uses a thin needle. A core needle biopsy removes a larger amount of tissue from the tumor. This type of biopsy uses a wider needle.

How to prepare for a needle biopsy:

  • Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for your procedure. You may need to stop taking blood thinner medicine or aspirin 3 days before your procedure. The provider may tell you not to eat or drink anything 8 hours before your procedure. The provider will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure.
  • A CT scan, MRI, or x-ray may be used during your procedure if the tumor cannot be felt. You may be given contrast liquid during your procedure to help the tissue show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Also tell him if you are pregnant or think you are pregnant. Special shields can be used during the procedure to keep your baby safe.
  • Do not put on lotions or powders on the day of your procedure. Do not put on deodorant if your biopsy will be taken near your armpit. These products may cause particles to appear on your x-ray. Wear loose-fitting clothing to your procedure. Arrange for someone to drive you home and stay with you after your procedure if you are having IV sedation or general anesthesia.

What will happen during a needle biopsy:

  • Depending on where the tumor is, you may receive IV sedatives or general anesthesia. You may, instead, be given local anesthesia to numb the area. With local anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing during your procedure, but you should not feel any pain.
  • Your healthcare provider may make a small incision. He or she will insert a needle through your skin and into the tissue. The provider may use pictures on the monitor to help guide the needle to the correct place. When the needle reaches the tissue, samples will be taken.
  • The provider will remove the needle and apply pressure to the area. You will not need stitches. A small bandage will be placed if you have an incision. Your healthcare provider may also wrap a tight-fitting bandage across the area. This may prevent bleeding, swelling, and pain.

What will happen after a needle biopsy:

Healthcare providers will monitor you until you are awake. You may be sore or have bruising or swelling for a few days. Do not breastfeed for 24 to 48 hours if you received contrast liquid. The contrast liquid may harm your baby. You may go home after your procedure or you may need to spend a night in the hospital.

Risks of a needle biopsy:

You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. A pocket of blood or fluid may form under your skin. You may need surgery to drain or remove it. The biopsy needle may damage other organs or tissues.

Seek care immediately if:

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

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • Your biopsy site 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, or gets worse after you take pain 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.
  • 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 your provider 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 biopsy site as directed:

If you have a tight-fitting bandage, you can remove it in 24 to 48 hours, or as directed. Ask your healthcare provider when your biopsy site can get wet. Carefully wash around the site with soap and water. It is okay to let soap and water gently run over your biopsy site. Do not scrub the site. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. 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.


  • 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.
  • Rest as directed. Do not lift anything heavier than 5 pounds, play sports, or exercise. These activities may cause bleeding. Short walks around the house are okay. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to your normal activities.
  • Drink plenty of liquids as directed. Liquids help flush contrast liquid from your body. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

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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