What is a Core Needle Biopsy?

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  • Written By: Jim Ramphal
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2019
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A biopsy is a non-surgical medical procedure in which a small sample of tissue is removed for further laboratory examination under a microscope. It is most commonly performed to determine the presence of cancer or other malignant diseases in the breast, skin, bone, marrow, and intestines. A core needle biopsy uses a long, thin, hollow needle with a special cutting edge to extract the tissue sample without disturbing or damaging any surrounding cell structure. The needle is inserted through the skin to the affected area and a cylinder-shaped sample is removed. Several core needle biopsies may be necessary to obtain a sufficient volume of affected tissue for laboratory examination.

After the patient receives a local anesthetic to numb the insertion point, the core needle is directed to the tissue to be extracted. Although some pressure may be experienced during the procedure, patients should not feel any pain. The procedure may cause a little discomfort to patients, and they may experience soreness, bruising, or minor bleeding from the insertion point of the needle.

Core needle biopsies are a non-invasive and low risk diagnostic technique that requires very little time to perform. They can be done in a clinic or a doctor's office without subjecting patients to the stress and trauma of more traditional exploratory surgery. Tissue samples from core needle biopsies are microscopically examined in a pathology laboratory, most commonly to determine the presence of cancer.


Although only small samples are extracted by a core needle biopsy, it is not recommended for all biopsies of all parts of the body. A core needle biopsy should not be performed on areas of highly concentrated nerve tissue or other bodily regions of critical function. Areas such as the heart or lungs may be adversely affected or damaged by the procedure.

A core needle biopsy is not designed to remove the entire mass of tissue in question. As a result, there is a chance that the samples removed may not contain the diseased or cancerous cells that would allow a proper diagnosis. Despite this, the success rate for early detection of cancer from a core needle biopsy procedure is high, and is why the procedure is so widely practiced.

A core needle biopsy does not require a hospital visit. Very little recuperation time is required, meaning patients can have the procedure and return to their normal activities the same day in most cases. Developed specifically to reduce the risks and stress of a previous surgical procedures, the core needle biopsy has become a standard diagnostic method.


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