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Biopsy

A procedure in which a tiny piece of a body part, such as the colon or liver, is removed for examination with a microscope.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

About Biopsies

A biopsy (taking a tissue sample) is one of the most commonly used medical tests. Tissue samples can be analyzed in order to find out, for instance, whether a suspicious lump is harmless or dangerous. The doctor removes a small sample of tissue and sends it to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope. The tissue sample can often be removed in an outpatient setting.

When are biopsies necessary? If a doctor feels something unusual during a physical examination (palpation), analyzing a sample of tissue can help find out what it is. Biopsies might also be necessary for further clarification if imaging techniques such as ultrasounds or x-rays reveal abnormal areas of tissue. Then chronically inflamed tissue can be detected or cancer ruled out, for example. Samples of tissue can be taken from easily accessible parts of the body as well as from many internal organs.

Common biopsies include breast, prostate gland, skin and cervical biopsies. But tissue samples may also be taken from the liver, thyroid, stomach or muscles... Read more about Biopsy

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Antibiotic prophylaxis for transrectal prostate biopsy

Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and transrectal prostate biopsy is the procedure to obtain tissue for the histological diagnosis of carcinoma of the prostate. Despite the fact that infective complications after transrectal prostate biopsy are well known, there is uncertainty about the necessity and effectiveness of routine prophylactic antibiotics and a clear lack of standardization in antibiotic prophylaxis for transrectal prostate biopsy. In nine trials we observed that antibiotic prophylaxis is effective in preventing infectious complications (bacteriuria, bacteremia, fever, urinary tract infection, sepsis) and hospitalization following prostate biopsy. Several classes of antibiotics are effective for prophylaxis in prostate biopsy, with the quinolones the best analysed class. There are no definitive data to confirm that antibiotic for long‐course is superior to short‐course treatment, or that multiple‐dose treatment is superior to single‐dose treatment.

Lymph node biopsy followed by lymph node dissection for localised skin cancer

Melanoma arises from the uncontrollable growth of cells in the skin that produce the pigment melanin; it is the leading cause of skin cancer‐associated mortality. In invasive melanoma, the tumour has infiltrated into the dermis (a deep layer in the skin).

Biopsy versus resection for high grade glioma

Malignant gliomas are aggressive tumours of the nervous system. Resection (surgery to remove the tumour) may relieve symptoms but there is uncertainty that it extends survival. Biopsy can confirm diagnosis and carries fewer risks, but will not extend survival or improve symptoms. It is controversial as to which procedure is the best management option. One small trial looking at this problem was found but the trial proved inadequate and of low quality to answer the question conclusively. Larger well designed trails are required in the future.

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Summaries for consumers

Antibiotic prophylaxis for transrectal prostate biopsy

Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and transrectal prostate biopsy is the procedure to obtain tissue for the histological diagnosis of carcinoma of the prostate. Despite the fact that infective complications after transrectal prostate biopsy are well known, there is uncertainty about the necessity and effectiveness of routine prophylactic antibiotics and a clear lack of standardization in antibiotic prophylaxis for transrectal prostate biopsy. In nine trials we observed that antibiotic prophylaxis is effective in preventing infectious complications (bacteriuria, bacteremia, fever, urinary tract infection, sepsis) and hospitalization following prostate biopsy. Several classes of antibiotics are effective for prophylaxis in prostate biopsy, with the quinolones the best analysed class. There are no definitive data to confirm that antibiotic for long‐course is superior to short‐course treatment, or that multiple‐dose treatment is superior to single‐dose treatment.

Lymph node biopsy followed by lymph node dissection for localised skin cancer

Melanoma arises from the uncontrollable growth of cells in the skin that produce the pigment melanin; it is the leading cause of skin cancer‐associated mortality. In invasive melanoma, the tumour has infiltrated into the dermis (a deep layer in the skin).

Biopsy versus resection for high grade glioma

Malignant gliomas are aggressive tumours of the nervous system. Resection (surgery to remove the tumour) may relieve symptoms but there is uncertainty that it extends survival. Biopsy can confirm diagnosis and carries fewer risks, but will not extend survival or improve symptoms. It is controversial as to which procedure is the best management option. One small trial looking at this problem was found but the trial proved inadequate and of low quality to answer the question conclusively. Larger well designed trails are required in the future.

See all (424)

Terms to know

Biopsy Sample
Tissue removed from the body and examined under a microscope to determine whether disease is present.
Bone Marrow Biopsy
A procedure in which a small sample of bone with bone marrow inside it is removed, usually from the hip bone.
Breast Biopsy
Removal of tissue from the breast for microscopic examination.
Cone Biopsy (Conization)
A procedure in which a cone-shaped piece of abnormal tissue is removed from the cervix.
Core Biopsy
The removal of a tissue sample with a wide needle for examination under a microscope.
Excisional Biopsy
A surgical procedure in which an entire lump or suspicious area is removed for diagnosis. The tissue is then examined under a microscope.
Incisional Biopsy
A surgical procedure in which a portion of a lump or suspicious area is removed for diagnosis. The tissue is then examined under a microscope to check for signs of disease.
Laparoscopic Biopsy
Laparoscopic biopsy involves inserting a laparoscope, a thin tube with a tiny video camera attached, through a small incision to look inside the body to view the surface of organs. The health care provider will insert a needle through a plastic, tubelike instrument called a cannula to remove the tissue sample.
Liver Biopsy
A liver biopsy is a procedure that involves taking a small piece of liver tissue for examination with a microscope for signs of damage or disease.
Lymph Node Dissection (Lymphadenectomy)
A surgical procedure in which lymph nodes are removed and a sample of tissue is checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
Needle Biopsy
A procedure using a needle to take a sample of tissue or fluid.
Open Biopsy
A procedure in which a surgical incision (cut) is made through the skin to expose and remove tissues.
Pathologist
A doctor who has special training in identifying diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.
Punch Biopsy
Removal of a small disk-shaped sample of tissue using a sharp, hollow device. The tissue is then examined under a microscope.
Renal Biopsy (Kidney Biopsy)
Renal biopsy (also kidney biopsy) is a medical procedure in which a small piece of kidney is removed from the body for examination, usually under a microscope. Microscopic examination of the tissue can provide information needed to diagnose, monitor or treat problems of the kidney.
Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
Some cancers spread in a predictable fashion, first to lymph nodes (lymph glands) close to the tumor. The concept of sentinel lymph node surgery is to determine if the cancer has spread to the very first draining lymph node (called the "sentinel lymph node") or not.
Shave Biopsy
A procedure in which a skin abnormality and a thin layer of surrounding skin are removed with a small blade for examination under a microscope. Stitches are not needed.
Skin Biopsy
Removal of a portion of skin tissue, for microscopic examination.
Stereotactic Biopsy
A biopsy procedure that uses a computer and a 3-dimensional scanning device to find a tumor site and guide the removal of tissue for examination under a microscope.

More about Biopsy

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Also called: Bx

Other terms to know: See all 19
Biopsy Sample, Bone Marrow Biopsy, Breast Biopsy

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