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Image-Guided Biopsy

A biopsy is a small sample of tissue or fluid taken from the body. This sample can then be studied in a laboratory. Image-guided biopsy allows a sample to be taken from an abnormal mass without the need for surgery. This procedure is done by a general radiologist or a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist.

Cross section of skin with needle inserted into mass of tissue. Needle is used to take sample of tissue from inside body.

Before the Procedure

Follow any instructions you are given on how to prepare, including:

  • Do not eat or drink anything for 6 hours before the procedure.

  • Tell your technologist what medications, herbs, or supplements you take; if you are, or may be, pregnant; or if you are allergic to any medications.

During the Procedure

  • You will change into a hospital gown and lie on an x-ray table. You may lie on your back, front, or side, depending on the location of the area to be biopsied.

  • An IV (intravenous) line is started to give you fluids and medications. You may be given medication through the IV to help you relax.

  • The skin over the biopsy site is cleaned. A local anesthetic is applied to numb the skin.

  • Using CT (computed tomography), MRI, X-ray, or ultrasound images as a guide, the radiologist puts a thin, hollow needle through the skin and guides it to the area to be biopsied.

  • The needle is used to take a sample of tissue or fluid from the area. The needle is then removed. The sample is sent to the pathologist who looks for abnormal cells.

Risks and Complications

Potential risks and complications of image-guided biopsy include:

  • Bruising or bleeding at the needle insertion site

  • Bleeding internally

  • Damage to structures along the path of the needle

After the Procedure

  • You will most likely be able to go home within a few hours.

  • Be sure to have a friend or family member drive you home if you have had sedation. 

  • Care for the insertion site as directed.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 12/15/2013
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