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Needle biopsy, also called image-guided biopsy, is usually performed using computed tomography (CT), real-time X-ray (fluoroscopy), ultrasound, or magnetic resonance (MR) to guide the procedure. In the most difficult cases, needle biopsies are performed with the aid of equipment that creates a computer-generated image and allows radiologists to see an area inside the body from various angles. This "stereotactic" equipment helps them pinpoint the exact location of the abnormal tissue and to avoid injuring normal tissue.
Biopsies may involve techniques called "fine needle biopsy" or "core biopsy," depending on the amount of material needed, the consistency of the tissue, and whether infection or other diagnoses are being considered. Both require use of long skinny needles, skinnier than an IV. Most are performed with local anesthetic and sedation only without the need for general anesthesia. Patients go home with nothing more than a band-aid.
Needle biopsy is typically an outpatient procedure with very infrequent complications; less than 1 percent of patients develop bleeding or infection. In over 90 percent of patients, needle biopsy provides enough tissue for the pathologist to arrive at a diagnosis.
The doctor inserts a thin needle through your skin to remove tiny bits of tissue from the tumor. This type of biopsy does not require surgery, and you are partially awake during this test. The doctor may use a CT scan to guide the needle. Sometimes, this test does not remove enough tissue to know whether the lump is cancer, but it can tell whether it is something else, such as an infection.