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Ultrasound-guided biopsy

A procedure to take a tissue sample with precision

What is an ultrasound-guided biopsy?

An ultrasound-guided biopsy is a diagnostic test that removes a small sample of tissue from a lump or suspicious area of the body, using a specialised needle. The cells are then examined under a microscope to prove (or disprove) the presence of cancer. 

The advantage of an ultrasound-guided biopsy is that the ultrasound scan guides your consultant or radiologist to the precise area of your body where the sample needs to be taken fromThe specialised needle can be seen on the ultrasound scanso your consultant or nurse can be sure a sample is taken from the correct area. 

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Frequently asked questions

An ultrasound-guided biopsy can help us diagnose symptoms affecting many areas of your body, including the breast, liver, lungs, head and neck. Your doctor may refer you for an ultrasound-guided biopsy if you have symptoms or an abnormality found during an ultrasound scan or mammogram and further analysis is needed. 

Before we carry out any tests, we’ll ask you to sign a consent form. This simply states that you agree to have the procedure and you understand what it involves. We want to involve you in all decisions about your care and treatment. You can always talk to a member of your care team if you’d like more information about our consent process. 

At the start of the procedure, your consultant or radiologist will carry out an ultrasound scan to locate the area where the biopsy will be taken. They’ll clean the part of the body that is going to be examined, before injecting a local anaesthetic to numb the area 

Once the local anaesthetic has taken effect, your consultant or nurse will make a very small cut (around 3 to 4 mm) where the needle is to be inserted. An ultrasound probe on the surface of your skin will guide the needle to the correct positionYou’ll hear the needle make a clicking noise when a sample of your tissue is taken. Your consultant or nurse will remove the needle from your body after the sample is collected. They may repeat this procedure a couple of times to take more samples for analysis. 

When the procedure has finished, your consultant onurse will apply a small amount of pressure to the biopsy site for five minutes, this helps reduce the risk of bruising. A bandage, such as a steri-strip will be placed over the puncture site and then covered with a sterile, waterproof dressing 

There are no special preparations needed for your biopsy. You’ll need to let us know of any medication you’re taking, and if you’re allergic to any medication, anaesthetic or dressings. 

The procedure should take no longer than 20 minutes. 

You shouldn’t experience any pain throughout the procedure, but you may feel some pressure on the part of your body where the biopsy is taken.  

We know that waiting for a test result can be a worrying time. Your consultant will give you some information about what they’ve seen at the time of the biopsy. We’ll send your biopsy samples to the laboratory for analysis and your results will be back within five to seven working days. A copy of your results will be shared with your GP, and we’ll contact you to arrange an appointment to discuss them with you. 

Ultrasound-guided biopsies are routinely performed without any issues. Your consultant or nurse will explain any potential complications of a biopsy and advise on managing problems before you go ahead with the procedure. You’ll also be given plenty of time to ask any questions. 

Possible side effects include: 

  • Bleeding 
  • Bruising  
  • Swelling 

These are normal and should subside within a week or so.  

There’s a small chance that you may get an infection after your ultrasound-guided biopsy. You must contact your GP if you experience: 

  • A high temperature 
  • Aching limbs 
  • Painful swelling around the biopsy site 

If you think it is an emergency, you should go straight to your nearest Emergency Department (A&E). 


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