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Needle Biopsy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What do I 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 do I 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.

What are the 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.