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Overview of Tissue Biopsy Procedures

A biopsy is the removal of cells or tissue from the body to be examined in a laboratory by a pathologist to determine abnormalities (such as those caused by inflammatory and autoimmune disorders or infection) or diseases such as cancer. Biopsies are also used to match organ tissue before a transplant and to look for signs of organ rejection following a transplant. You can also get to know more about biopsies via

Almost any organ in the body can be biopsied as well as the bones, bone marrow, thyroid, lymph nodes, muscles and nerves. Biopsies can be excisional where a whole lump or targeted area is surgically removed or incisional/core biopsy where just a tissue sample is taken.

Depending upon the type of biopsy needed, the procedure may be performed by a surgeon. Also, the type of anesthesia (local anesthesia, conscious sedation, or general anesthesia) the patient receives is determined by the type of biopsy performed. Biopsies are generally minimally invasive and safe. Complications that may occur as a result of a biopsy include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Accidental injury to adjacent structures such as the bowel during an abdominal biopsy or lung parenchyma during the renal biopsy.

After the biopsy specimen has been collected, it is placed into a container with a fixative and delivered to a pathology laboratory. Once it arrives in the laboratory, the sample is examined by a pathologist or trained assistant. 

Biopsy results are usually available within 2-3 days. If more extensive or complicated testing needs to be completed, it may take 7-10 days. To further classify the tumor or determine treatment planning, molecular or genetic testing may be completed along with or after diagnosis.