Needle Biopsy

Note: The following preps are for outpatient care only. For questions about any of these preps, please contact the Radiology Reception Desk, at (734) 936-4500 for more information.

What is a Needle Biopsy?

A needle biopsy is a medical test which can identify the cause of an abnormal lump or mass in your body. A radiologist performs this procedure in the radiology department. During the procedure, the radiologist inserts a small needle into the abnormal area and the sample is then sent to the pathologist for analysis. The pathologist can determine what the abnormal tissue is: cancer, non-cancerous tumor, infection, or scar.

Why do I need needle biopsy?

The most common reason to need a needle biopsy is to identify the cause of an abnormal lump somewhere deep in your body. Imaging tests, such as mammography, ultrasound, CAT scan, and magnetic resonance (MRI), can find abnormal masses, but these tests alone cannot always tell your doctor what the lump is. A needle biopsy can determine the cause of an abnormal lump or mass. Your doctors need this information in order to provide you with the best care and treatment.

What is a needle biopsy procedure like? Will it hurt?

  • First, the radiologist will use some form of imaging (such as CT/ultrasound) to determine the best site for the biopsy.
  • Next, the radiologist will clean the area where the needle biopsy is going to be performed and put local anesthetic in the skin and deeper tissues to numb the area.
  • A Registered Nurse will be available to administer sedation/analgesia if needed.
  • The radiologist will then put a small needle into the mass or lump.
  • The radiologist will take a CT or ultrasound image of the biopsy area during the procedure. These internal pictures will help the radiologist to put the needle in exactly the right place.
  • You usually feel some pressure during the procedure.
  • The radiologist will use the biopsy needle to remove a tiny piece of tissue of some cells from the mass.
  • A needle biopsy usually takes about one hour.

How do I prepare for my needle biopsy?

  • Eating: Do not eat any solid food for 6 hours prior to your procedure
  • Medications: Most people should continue to take their prescribed medications. If you are diabetic and are taking Glucophage, Glucovance or Avandamet you must not take the medication for two days after the examination. Also you must have a blood test to check your kidney function before restarting the above medications. Ask your physician for instructions. If you are a diabetic and taking insulin, you should ask your physician for specific instructions regarding the dosages for the day of your examination. If you are taking Coumadin or other medications to thin your blood, you must tell your doctor so that it can be stopped several days before the procedure. Bring all your medications with you.
  • Allergies: For biopsies performed under CT guidance - if you are allergic to contrast (X-ray dye) or iodine, or have had a serious allergic reaction to anything (such as difficulty breathing or throat swelled up), let the radiology team know about your allergy a few days before your scheduled needle biopsy, as you may need to take additional medications beginning approximately 13 hours before your biopsy.
  • Smoking: Do not smoke for at least 48 hours before your needle biopsy.

When I Arrive in the Radiology Department:

  • Everybody having an needle biopsy done will have blood tests that are usually done the day before the procedure.
  • You will change into a hospital gown.
  • Intravenous (IV) line will be placed in one of your veins. This will be used to give you fluids and medicines during the procedure. The IV will stay in place until your recovery is completed.
  • Before your procedure begins, a member of the radiology team (doctor, physician assistant, nurse, or technologist) will talk with you about the procedure in detail and answer any questions you have.

After The Procedure:

  • If you are already a patient in the hospital or if you have been scheduled to be admitted to the hospital immediately after your procedure: you will stay in the hospital after your study is completed. You will return from the radiology department to your hospital room, and will be observed to make sure you are all right.
  • If you are having your procedure done as an outpatient: you will stay in the radiology department for one to four hours after the procedure is completed. The Radiology team will watch over you to make sure that you are all right. You will go home after the observation period.
  • Please make arrangements for someone to drive you home. You may not drive yourself home. The radiologist will send a report to your doctor after he has studied your x-rays. It is best to ask your doctor for the exam results.

When you go home:

  • Take it easy for 24 hours.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Resume your regular diet.
  • Keep a bandage on the biopsy site for a day.
  • Do not drive or run machinery for at least 24 hours.
  • Do not do any strenuous exercise or lifting for at least two days.
  • Do not take a hot bath or shower for at least 12 hours.

After The Procedure:

The tissue (or cell) sample is sent to a doctor, called a pathologist who will examine the tissue or cells under a microscope. Usually, the results of the biopsy are ready in about 5 days. It is best to ask your doctor for the exam results.


If you have any questions regarding biopsy scheduling, please call (734) 936-4500.  

Reviewed and Approved:
Ellen Higgins, PA
Ella Kazerooni, MD