What is a Biopsy?

What is a biopsy? In a CT guided biopsy procedure, a small piece of tissue is taken from an organ of interest and given to a pathologist who looks at it under a microscope and tells you what it is. This image is a biopsy needle taking a piece of tissue from the left kidney. The pathologist's report will reveal whether a specimen is cancer or not or whether it's something else.

The results of a biopsy usually take 24-48 hours or more because the pathologist has to process it and stain it and examine it under a microscope.

Biopsies are often performed in CT for image guidance by helping to visually guide a biopsy needle into the exact spot where a tumor is found. Not all tumors are cancerous.

Biopsy of the liver is also performed for other reasons even if no tumor is found such as elevated liver enzymes or liver failure.

A small piece of tissue can be taken from the liver, lung or bone by using a special biopsy needle, guided by CT imaging, and then the specimen taken from the needle is sent to the lab for analysis to evaluate function of the specimen's cells.

An Interventional Radiologist will numb the skin and place a biopsy needle through the skin into the exact location of the body where the specimen will be taken, assisted by a CT Technologist who will operate the CT Scanner. The CT scanner images show exactly where the Inverventional Radiologist is placing the needle guiding the needle to the exact place in the body where the biopsy will be taken.

Preparation for a biopsy may begin a few days in advance if you take certain types of medication. You may or may not have to stop taking your medication for a few days before the procedure. Most institutions will have radiology nurses or assistants who ask you what medications you're taking before you have the procedure.

The CT scanner can pin point the exact location of anything inside the body. Measurements are very precise. The depth and size of any tumor or growth or area that's diseased and abnormal can be measured in millimeters or centemeters. These measurements show exactly how deep to place a biopsy needle into the body and at what exact level and what angle in order to take a speciman.

In a biopsy liver procedure, a special biopsy needle is placed in the exact spot where the piece of tissue will be taken from. A very small, worm size piece of tissue about the size of a pencil lead is taken from the area that is abnormal. The tissue is then taken to the lab for analysis by a pathologist who will give a pathology report to your doctor who ordered the biopsy.

After the biopsy, you will be watched for a few hours to make sure there are no complications from the procedure.

Organs and other structures surrounding an area to be biopsied can be well seen. This enables the interventional radiologist to decide whether a biopsy can be safely done or not. Risks are always possible. The interventional radiologist with a radiology nurse will explain the risks involved before the procedure so you can make a decision about weather you want have it done or not.

Some needle biopsies are not able to be performed because vital organs may be surrounding the area to be biopsied. Placing a needle through a vital organ in order to reach an area that is abnormal is not safe. If this is the case, the needle biopsy will not be performed. Other options will need to be discussed with your doctor.


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