A biopsy is the removal of tissue in order to examine it for disease.

When a nodule is detected, imaging tests may help determine if it is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). If imaging studies cannot clearly define what the nodule is, a biopsy may be necessary. Biopsies can be taken from any part of the body. Some biopsies involve removing a small amount of tissue or fluid with a needle while others involve surgically removing an entire lump or nodule that is suspicious.

Needle biopsies can be safely performed with imaging guidance such as ultrasound, X-ray, computed tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These types of imaging can determine exactly where to place the needle and perform the biopsy. They are most often done by a specially trained radiologist, assisted by an imaging technologist and/or a nurse.

Learn more about making an appointment and coming to our hospitals.

Before Your Biopsy

Most needle biopsies are performed as an outpatient, which means you go home after the procedure and are not admitted to the hospital.

The preparations for a biopsy vary. When we call you to book your procedure, we will give you the preparation instructions. It is important that you follow these instructions. Some important instructions include:

  • You may be instructed to not eat or drink for eight hours before your biopsy.
  • Some medications such as blood thinners, Aspirin, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (Advil or Motrin) should not be used for seven days before your biopsy date.
  • They may advise whether your routine medications are allowed.
  • If you are diabetic and take insulin, talk to your physician as your usual insulin dose may need to be adjusted.
  • The instructions may advise the length of time you will be at the hospital, from your arrival time until we have completed all monitoring after the procedure and discharge you home.
  • Some biopsies (such as lung, liver and kidney) require bloodwork to be taken on the morning of the procedure.
  • For any biopsies involving sedation, we do require that you make arrangements to be driven home by someone else. If you cannot make alternate driving arrangements, we will need you to remain at the hospital until all sedative effects have worn off before driving yourself home. For some biopsies that involve local tissue freezing, we may still recommend that someone else drive you home when possible.

After Your Biopsy

Before you go home, you will be given after-care instructions. You can also check out our discharge instructions page and look for your specific type of biopsy procedure.

Some of these instructions may include directions on how long you should rest after the biopsy, how long to leave on any bandages/dressings, when you can resume taking your medications, when you can eat and drink afterwards, etc.

If you need pain medication, you may take acetaminophen (Tylenol) only; do not take Aspirin for two days after the procedure.

  • Call your physician if you experience severe bleeding, pain, swelling, excessive bruising, or significant redness and heat.
  • Call your physician for results and follow up; it may take seven to 10 working days for your physician to receive your results.