Needle Biopsy

General Information:              

  • Description: Infection, inflammation, and tumors can affect any organ within the abdomen. Sometimes an abnormality is identified to involve the liver, pancreas, lymph nodes, or kidneys and the exact cause may not be apparent. In these situations a biopsy of the affected organ can be helpful in leading to the cause and treatment of the disease process. A Radiologist or Gastroenterologist performs the test in a hospital. Sometimes CT scan or ultrasound guides the biopsy needle. A Pathologist interprets the results. The test takes 15-60 minutes to perform.
  • Discomfort – Moderate discomfort during needle insertion.                  
  • Results – 2-3 days.                  
  • Risks of Procedure – Main risk of test is bleeding. Other risks include injury to the organs of the abdomen and infection.                  
  • Other Names – Liver biopsy, pancreatic biopsy, or fine needle biopsy.

Indications of the Test

  • To identify the cause of an abnormality (infection, inflammation, or tumor/cancer) involving the liver, pancreas, lymph nodes, or kidney when other tests have been non-conclusive.
  • To identify cirrhosis or hepatitis in the liver.


  • Nothing should be consumed for 8 hours before the test, except medications as directed by your doctor.
  • Aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin substitutes), blood thinners, and anticoagulants should not be taken for five days before the test to reduce the risk of bleeding.
  • You will be asked to empty your bladder before the test.
  • You wear a hospital gown.


  • You are placed on a table or x-ray table.
  • After the site to be biopsied is sterilized, a local anesthetic is injected.
  • You may be asked to exhale completely and hold your breath to reduce the risk of a puncturing the lung.
  • A needle is inserted into the organ to be biopsied. A CT scan or ultrasound may be used to guide placement of the needle.
  • The needle is inserted quickly and then withdrawn. The tissue inside the needle is removed for analysis.
  • Sometimes several insertions of the needle are performed to ensure that adequate tissue is obtained or to sample different areas.

After the Procedure

  • A pressure dressing is applied to the puncture site to control bleeding.
  • You are monitored in a recovery area until it is certain you have no complications. You may be monitored for up to 4 hours if a liver biopsy was performed.
  • You may be instructed to have limited activity for 1 day.
  • Pain is to be expected at the puncture site for 1-2 days. Sometimes the pain may be in the shoulder.

Factors Affecting Results

  • Small areas of abnormality can be difficult to sample adequately.


  • Tissue is obtained for analysis when the cause of an abnormality is not apparent from other tests.
  • The test can sometimes avoid the need for surgery.


  • The test is painful and invasive.
  • Only small tissue samples are obtained.
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