What is a Brain Biopsy?

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  • Written By: M. DePietro
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2018
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A brain biopsy involves taking a sample of brain tissue to help diagnose certain conditions, such as brain cancer. It can also help determine if an infection or inflammation is present in the brain. The sample of tissue taken from the brain is usually small. A brain biopsy may also be done during an autopsy to study certain medical conditions and brain abnormalities.

The procedure is usually done under general anesthesia. Prior to the biopsy, a CT scan is done to locate the specific area of the brain where the sample will be taken from. A needle is used to obtain the tissue sample. The needle is inserted into the brain through a hole drilled into the skull. With the help of a computer imaging system, the surgeon is able to find the spot where the sample needs to be taken.

Depending on an individual's symptoms, a biopsy may be needed to confirm a diagnosis. After the sample is taken, a pathologist views the sample under a microscope. The pathologist identifies the type of cells present and can determine if there is any abnormal growth of the cells. This helps determine if a tumor found in the brain is cancerous or benign. If an infection is found, the type of organism responsible can be identified and appropriate treatment started.


Although a brain biopsy is invasive, it is considered safe. However there are always risks associated with any type of surgery, especially one involving the brain. The procedure is done under general anesthesia, and some people can have a negative reaction to the medications used. There is also a small risk of infection.

As the needle is inserted into the brain, it is possible an area of the brain can be injured, which can cause a variety of problems, such as issues with vision and speech. After a tissue sample is taken, a small amount of scar tissue can develop on the brain. The scar tissue can sometimes cause problems, such as seizures.

The brain biopsy usually takes a few hours and a patient will be monitored in the recovery room until the anesthesia wears off. Since the patient is asleep for the procedure, there is not much pain involved. During recovery, a patient may have mild to moderate pain in the area where the needle went into the skull. Most people do not have serious complications, however patients spend a few days in the hospital after the procedure. The results from a brain biopsy usually take a few days.


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Post 2

@Sneakers41- I have heard of different types of brain tumors but some actually have a high recovery rate. It really depends on the type of tumor that it is. Hopefully the tumor will be benign. I hope your husband's coworker gets good news.

Post 1

I wanted to say that a coworker of my husband’s is going in for a brain biopsy. She had been suffering from headaches for a while and her doctor suggested a CT scan. The results proved that she had a brain tumor but she still does not know if the tumor is malignant or not.

I really feel for her because she just went through a divorce and to have to go through this is awful. I hope that her tumor is benign. I imagine that the waiting for the results of the biopsy must be really difficult.

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