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Health Information For Parents
A biopsy is when doctors take a sample of tissue or cells for testing.
Doctors can take this sample in different ways, such as:
Doctors order biopsies to:
Biopsies are commonly done on:
Some biopsies require only local anesthesia. For example, doctors might give an injection to numb an area of skin before taking a sample for testing.
Others types require sedation or general anesthesia. If that’s the case, a child must stop eating and drinking several hours before the biopsy to make sure the stomach is empty. Doctors give sedation and anesthesia medicines through an IV line (intravenous tube) to help the child stay asleep during the test.
Sometimes, parents can stay with their child during the biopsy for reassurance and support.
Talk to your doctor about how to prepare for a biopsy.
In a needle biopsy (such as a bone marrow or liver biopsy), doctors clean and numb the skin, then insert a needle through the skin to get a sample. Some needle biopsies are done in a radiology department where an ultrasound or CAT scan can show the doctor exactly where to insert the needle.
Doctors do other biopsies by inserting a tiny telescope into the body, such as an endoscope into the esophagus and stomach, or a laparoscope into the belly. In an endoscopic biopsy, a small pinching instrument at the end of the endoscope snips off a small tissue sample.
Other times, they might do surgery to reach an organ to do the biopsy (called an open biopsy). A child will get general anesthesia to sleep through the surgery.
How long a biopsy takes depends on the type done. A simple skin biopsy usually takes just a few minutes, while a bone marrow biopsy can take half an hour. Open biopsies can take much longer.
The tissue sample goes to a laboratory for testing. Depending on the type of sample, it might be treated with chemicals, cut into thinner pieces, or frozen before it’s put onto glass slides. A pathologist (a doctor trained in interpreting biopsy samples) will check the slides under a microscope to help make a diagnosis.
In an emergency, biopsy results can be available quickly. Otherwise, most are ready in several days.
If doctors think a child has an infection, they may start antibiotic treatment while waiting for the results.
A biopsy is a safe procedure with few risks. Some kids might have discomfort or pain at the biopsy site for a day or two. Rarely, infection or bleeding can happen.
In very rare cases, anesthesia can cause problems (such as irregular heart rhythms, breathing problems, and allergic reactions to medicines).
You can help prepare your child for a biopsy by explaining that while the test might be uncomfortable, it won’t take long. If sedation or anesthesia is involved, explain that your child will get a medicine to sleep through the whole procedure with no pain.
After the biopsy, make sure your child rests and follows any other instructions the doctor gives you.
Sometimes you need a medical test to give your doctor more information about your health. Find out how 10 common tests are done in these videos for kids.
Need to get a blood test? An MRI? These videos show what happens in 10 of the most common medical tests.
Sometimes, when doctors are not sure what’s wrong with a part of your body, they might decide to do a test called a biopsy.
A bone marrow aspiration and biopsy are performed to examine bone marrow, the spongy liquid part of the bone where blood cells are made.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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