A biopsy is a procedure in which doctors guide hollow needles into the body toward an area of interest and remove a portion (specimen) within the needle so that a pathologist can analyze it under the microscope. This provides a definitive diagnosis of the selected tissue. Frequently biopsied areas include the bone, liver, thyroid, kidney, and other organs.

About this Treatment

About this Treatment

How do we perform a biopsy?

After thoroughly cleansing the surface of the skin, the doctor will numb the area and insert a needle through the skin, guiding it toward the target, either by following an ultrasound or CT scanned image, depending on the location. After a portion of the desired biopsy area fills the hollow core of the needle, the needle is retracted and the specimen inside is removed and prepared for the pathologist. Depending on the site of biopsy and amount of bleeding, the doctor can choose to fill the tract of the needle inside the body with a hemostatic (“blood-stopping”) material called Gelfoam ®. The skin is then cleansed and a dressing and bandage are placed.

Will my child be awake during the procedure?

This procedure requires your child to be asleep for which we will administer intravenous sedation or general anesthesia.

Will my child feel any pain?

Your child will not feel pain during the procedure but some children may feel pain and discomfort around the biopsy site for a few days following the procedure. This is well controlled with over-the-counter medications but stronger prescription medications may be given.

How long does the procedure take?

The length of the procedure will vary depending on the location of the biopsy.  Generally, biopsies take about an hour or less. Some children may need to arrive many hours before the procedure to have certain lab tests performed, which will be clearly communicated to you.

What risks are associated with this procedure?

Biopsies are considered low-risk procedures. However, potential complications include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Injury to surrounding organs or blood vessels
Pre and Post Operative Care

Pre and Post Operative Care

How do my child and I prepare for the procedure?

We encourage good communication between you and your child about the procedure, the reason for it and ensuring them that you will be close by the entire time. Holding them or their hands until they leave for the procedure is a great way to provide support.

You will be given specific instructions along the way but you may need to arrive a few hours before the scheduled procedure to have some blood tests done.  When you arrive at the hospital, a doctor will review the procedure and associated risks, after which you will sign a consent form. When we are ready to get started with the procedure, a nurse will place an intravenous line to deliver sedating medications and you will be allowed to accompany your child in the operating room until they are asleep, after which you will be escorted to a waiting room.

What should we expect after the procedure?

Nurses will monitor your child in the recovery area for 4-6 hours for successful recovery from anesthesia and any immediate complications. Depending on the biopsy location, your child may experience some discomfort, which we will provide medication for. Laboratory tests looking at the blood may also be ordered to ensure a safe recovery.

When will my child be able to start bathing or swimming?

The dressing and bandage covering the skin must stay dry for 48 hours and you may sponge bathe your child during this time. Your child may resume showering after 48 hours but may not submerge themselves under water for one week. Allow the white strips covering the biopsy site to fall off naturally or you may take them off after one week.

When can my child resume normal activity?

We recommend complete bed rest for the remainder of the day after the biopsy. The next day, your child may resume normal light activities school-going or daycare attendance but must refrain from intense physical activity like contact sports and rough playing for one week.


•     Redness, pain, swelling, or bruising at the needle insertion site.

•     Fever higher than 101o Fahrenheit or 38o Celsius.

•     A change in color or temperature to the associated extremity.

•     Numbness, swelling, or pain of the associated extremity.

The department of Interventional Radiology can be reached at: 202-476-3791, Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

At all other times please call 202-259-8643, which is the on-call pager. Follow the instructions and wait for a call back.

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