What are Biopsies?

Interventional radiology often relies on biopsies to finalize diagnoses. While blood tests, MRIs, X-rays and CT scans can be used to test whether a patient has cancer, interventional radiologists use biopsies to gather more detailed information about the cancer itself. During a biopsy procedure, a tissue sample from a tumor or abnormality is taken and studied by a pathologist. Examining the tissue more closely helps your radiologist determine the type of cancer, what its rate of growth is, and what abnormalities are present. This enables your physician to identify the best form of treatment.

What are Needle Biopsies?

Needle Biopsies, sometimes referred to as image-guided biopsies, are procedures guided by CT, X-rays, MRIs or ultrasound. In difficult cases, needle biopsies are guided by stereotactic equipment, which creates a computer-generated image of the inside of the body from different angles, identifying the exact location of abnormal tissues. The long, skinny needles used are thinner than IV needles.

What are Biopsies Used For?

  • Cancer: Biopsies identify and diagnose cancerous tumors and other tissue abnormalities.
  • Transplantation: Transplanted organs are biopsied to determine whether they will be rejected or whether the disease that necessitated transplant will recur.
  • Fertility: Testicular biopsies evaluate male fertility and can identify reasons for infertility.
  • Inflammatory Conditions: Biopsies are often taken from lesions to determine the cause and extent of a particular disease. Some common examples are:
    • Kidney Disease: Biopsies are key in identifying renal dysfunction, especially in the diagnosis of Crescentic glomerulonephritis, a disease that results in the rapid loss of renal function.
    • Infection: The enlargement of lymph nodes is caused by a variety of identifiable diseases that can be detected and diagnosed via biopsy.
    • Metabolic Diseases: While metabolic diseases often affect the whole body, easily accessible sites are biopsied to identify conditions like Amyloidosis, the accumulation of degenerated proteins in body tissues


What are the Risks and Benefits of Biopsies?

  • Biopsies identify cancerous tumors and abnormalities without open surgery, avoiding the damaging of local blood vessels and vital organs.
  • Biopsies are relatively painless and lack the scarring and complication of open surgery, allowing the patient a quicker recovery time.
  • In needle biopsies, less than 1% of patients develop bleeding or infection.