What is an Ultrasound Guided Biopsy?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2019
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When a person has a lump or certain types of disease like cancer in the organs, doctors obviously want to figure out the cause before they take the significant step of removing lots of tissue. They may do so by performing a biopsy, which removes a small amount of tissue for examination to help confirm diagnosis. A biopsy might be performed in what is called a “blind” fashion, where the doctor uses x-rays or touch to determine what section of tissue must be removed and then does so based on pre-visuals or touch. Alternately, a common method for accurately removing the cells that should be analyzed is an ultrasound guided biopsy.

In an ultrasound guided biopsy, the physician uses an ultrasound machine to locate the area where it is best to remove tissue. The ultrasound wand or transducer pulses out waves of sound into the body, and then calculates their return. How the sound returns and is received creates a picture on a corresponding screen which can show very tiny abnormal masses or areas where it would be best to remove tissue for examination.


One reason that ultrasound guided biopsy can be so useful is because it gives the physician a present, accurate picture as she removes tissue. Accuracy of biopsy location is vital in order to properly diagnose conditions. Another advantage of this procedure is that it can be used on masses that are too small to be felt. This gives physicians a way to make diagnosis of conditions sooner, and may be especially helpful when survival rates of certain conditions improve with early treatment.

There are numerous parts of the body upon which an ultrasound guided biopsy might be performed. These include the breasts, lymph nodes and many of the major organs. For biopsy of breasts, most patients are conscious and are given a local anesthetic. The ultrasound itself is usually not painful, but removing tissue via needle or other methods can be uncomfortable, and pain relief in the area of removal is needed. More extensive biopsies like those of the liver may be performed on people who are conscious or who are in various stages of sedation.

Many ultrasound guided biopsies are outpatient procedures, and a lot of patients go home on the same day they have one. It may take a few days thereafter to determine the nature of the tissue biopsied, although sometimes biopsied tissue may be examined immediately. Usually, though, people can expect to meet with or speak to their doctors a few days after the ultrasound guided biopsy to get its results and plan treatment if it is needed.


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