Coordinated Health


A biopsy is the removal of a small piece of tissue for laboratory examination.

Alternative Names

Tissue sampling

How the test is performed

There are several different types of biopsies.

A needle biopsy is called a percutaneous biopsy. It removes tissue using a hollow tube called a syringe. The needle is passed several times through the tissue being examined. The surgeon uses the needle to remove the tissue sample. Needle biopsies are often done using CT scan or ultrasound. These imaging tools help guide the surgeon to the right area.

An open biopsy is surgery that uses local or general anesthesia. This means you are relaxed (sedated) or asleep and pain-free during the procedure. It is done in a hospital operating room. The surgeon makes a cut into the affected area, and the tissue is removed.

Closed biopsy uses a much smaller surgical cut than open biopsy. A small cut is made so that a camera-like instrument can be inserted. This instrument helps guide the surgeon to the right place to take the sample.

How to prepare for the test

Before scheduling the biopsy, tell your doctor and nurse about any medicines you are taking, including herbs and supplements. You may be asked to stop taking some for a while, particularly those that can make you bleed. Such medications include aspirin, Coumadin (warfarin), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).

Never stop or change your medications without first talking to your health care provider.

How the test will feel

In a needle biopsy, you will feel a small sharp pinch at the site of the biopsy.

In an open or closed biopsy, local or general anesthesia is often used to make it pain-free.

Why the test is performed

A biopsy is most often done to examine tissue for disease.

Normal Values

The tissue removed is normal.

What abnormal results mean

An abnormal biopsy means that the tissue or cells have an unusual structure, shape, size, or condition.

This may mean you have a disease, such as cancer, but it depends on your biopsy.

What the risks are

  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Special considerations

There are many different types of biopsies. Some are:

  • Abdominal wall fat pad biopsy
  • Biopsy of the biliary tract
  • Bladder biopsy
  • Bone lesion biopsy
  • Bone marrow biopsy
  • Breast biopsy
  • Carpal tunnel biopsy
  • Chorionic villus biopsy
  • Cold cone biopsy
  • Colposcopy-directed biopsy
  • Endometrial biopsy
  • Gum biopsy
  • Liver biopsy
  • Lung needle biopsy
  • Lymph node biopsy
  • Mediastinoscopy with biopsy
  • Muscle biopsy
  • Myocardial biopsy
  • Nasal mucosal biopsy
  • Nerve biopsy
  • Open lung biopsy
  • Open pleural biopsy
  • Oropharynx lesion biopsy
  • Pleural needle biopsy
  • Polyps biopsy
  • Rectal biopsy
  • Renal biopsy
  • Salivary gland biopsy
  • Skin lesion biopsy
  • Skinny-needle biopsy
  • Synovial biopsy
  • Testicular biopsy
  • Tongue biopsy
  • Upper airway biopsy
  • Ureteral retrograde brush biopsy cytology