CT Guided Biopsy

CT Guided BiopsyAll patients that have been referred for a CT Guided Biopsy will receive copies of our CT Biopsy information leaflet when they receive their appointment letter. These may also be found at the bottom of this page or in the PILS link on the front page.

What is a CT guided biopsy?

A needle biopsy is a way of taking a small piece of tissue out of your body, using only a tiny incision, so it can be examined under a microscope by a pathologist, an expert in making diagnoses from tissue samples. Because this biopsy is done through the skin, it is called a percutaneous biopsy.

Before the scan

You will be referred for this test by one of the clinicians in the hospital; they will send a request to the CT bookings clerk who will send out an appointment for you. There may be scope to change this appointment time if it does not suit you.


Please ring the radiology department if you:

  • Take warfarin, aspirin and Clopidogrel or anything that thins your blood.
  • Are diabetic.

You will have been allocated a day bed on the Medical Day Unit (MDU), Day Surgery Unit (DSU) or the Surgical Short Stay Unit (SSSU).


The location will be written on the appointment letter accompanying this patient information leaflet.


You will be asked to attend the ward three hours prior to your appointment to allow bloods to be taken and the results available prior to the procedure.


You will be asked not to eat for four hours but can drink water up to one hour prior to the procedure, unless otherwise advised.


You will be asked to put on a hospital gown and a cannula will be placed in a vein usually on the back of the hand.


If you have any allergies, you must let the staff looking after you know. If you have previously reacted to intravenous contrast medium (the dye used for kidney x-rays and CT scans) then you must tell the radiographers.


Can I bring a relative or friend?

Yes, but for reasons of safety, they may not be able to accompany you into the examination room, except in very special circumstances.


You must have someone to collect you and drive you home after your four hours bed rest and you will need to have someone with you over night.

What will happen during the biopsy?

Before being taken into the scanning room the Radiologist who is performing the procedure will ask you for your consent. If you have any questions regarding your procedure, now is a good time to ask.

You will be asked to lie on the CT scanning table, in the position that the radiologist has determined is most suitable.


If you have not already a cannula placed in the back of your hand or arm, then one may be inserted at this point.


The Radiologist will keep everything as sterile as possible, and may wear a theatre gown and operating gloves. Your skin will be cleaned with antiseptic, and you will be covered with a sterile drape. The radiologist will use the CT scans to decide on the most suitable point for inserting the needle.


The Radiographers will accurately mark this point with an indelible pen using the centring lights on the scanner to guide them. Your skin will then be anaesthetised, and the biopsy needle inserted into the abnormal tissue.


While the first part of the procedure may seem to take a while, actually performing the biopsy does not take very long at all, using the CT scans to accurately guide the needle into position.


You must keep as still as possible during this stage, if it becomes too uncomfortable please let us know.

Will it hurt?

Most biopsies do not hurt at all, although unfortunately bone biopsies may be painful. When the local anaesthetic is injected, it will sting to start with, but this soon passes off, and the skin and deeper tissues will soon feel numb. Later, you may be aware of the needle passing into your body, but this is generally done so quickly, that it does not cause any discomfort at all.


There will be a nurse and radiographer looking after and monitoring you throughout the procedure.

How long will it take?

Every patient’s situation is different, and it is not always easy to predict how complex or how straight forward the procedure will be. It may be over in thirty minutes, although you may be in the x-ray department for about an hour altogether.


What happens after the scan?

You will be taken back to your ward on a trolley accompanied by a nurse.


Nurses on the ward will continue to carry out observations, such as your heart rate and blood pressure to make sure there are no problems.


You will stay in bed for four hours until you have recovered and allowed to go home.


If you have a lung biopsy, it is routine to have a chest x-ray prior to going home.


What happens next?

All being well, you will be allowed home either on the same day, or the next.


Do not expect to get the results of the biopsy before you leave, as it always takes a few days for the pathologist to complete all the necessary tests on the biopsy specimen.

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