Stereotactic Biopsy at Bell Hospital

Definition of Stereotactic Biopsy:

A stereotactic biopsy is used to take tissue samples from a lump that may not be felt during a breast exam, but can be seen on a mammogram or an ultrasound. A lump deep inside the breast, or an abnormality too small to feel, can be biopsied using this technique.

Stereotactic Imaging Improves Accuracy

During stereo imaging, two-dimensional digital images of your breast are taken from two different angles. Both images are sent to a computer for image analysis. The computer compares the data from each image and calculates the three-dimensional location coordinates for your breast abnormality. With such precise information to guide the biopsy needle, your doctor or radiologist can accurately sample fluid or tissue.

Other Terms for Stereotactic (mammographically guided) Breast Biopsy:

  • Stereotactic core needle biopsy
  • Stereotactic-guided biopsy
  • Breast stereotaxy
  • Vacuum-assisted biopsy

Patient Comfort and Biopsy Technology

The equipment consists of a digital mammogram machine linked to a computer, and a needle guidance system. A nurse will attend to you before, during and after the procedure. You will be awake during the procedure, but must remain very still; therefore your comfort is very important. At our facility you will be placed on a soft table on your side and positioned until you are comfortable. Alternately, you could be placed upright in a chair if this position is preferred. Other stereotactic biopsy systems place the patient on their abdomen which is often less comfortable than on the side. Your breast will be given a local anesthetic, so you should not feel anything other than some pressure.

What to Expect During a Stereotactic Biopsy

Your breast is numbed and you are positioned for stereotactic mammography. Some compression is used to keep your breast still. Several pairs of images are taken. A small cut is made in the skin, so the needle can enter the breast more easily. The radiologist uses a hollow image-guided needle to target the breast abnormality. More images are taken to confirm that the needle is in the right place. Using suction, tissue is collected for examination by a pathologist. After the needle is removed from the breast, pressure is applied to the site for a time to minimize bruising/bleeding.

Pre-Stereotactic Biopsy Instructions

Before the Procedure:

  • Inform your doctor of any recent illness or medical conditions.
  • Inform your doctor of any medications for pain, blood thinners or blood clotting medications you may be taking. Bring a list of medications you are taking with you, including over the counter items, eye drops and inhalers.
  • Do not take any blood thinners (including aspirin) 3 days prior to the procedure.
  • Take all of your other regular medications the morning of your biopsy unless instructed not to do so. Please no deodorants, lotions or perfumes the day of the procedure.
  • There are no special dietary restrictions. We encourage a light meal before coming in for your procedure.
  • Dress comfortably. Wear a snug fitting bra the day of the procedure. We will want you to wear it home.
  • It is strongly recommended that you have someone drive you to and from your appointment.

Reasons to Have a Stereotactic Biopsy:

Stereotactic biopsies are requested when your doctor has a concern regarding your mammogram and would like a tissue sample. A stereotactic biopsy is one way to get tissue from a specific location. A biopsy may be requested for: a dense, irregularly-shaped mass, microcalcifications, a distortion of breast tissue or internal structure, or a new mass at a previous surgery site. Stereotactic biopsy is often a good alternative to surgical biopsy.

Stereotactic Guidance Assists Needle Biopsies and Wire Placement

The accuracy of stereotactic images can assist in several types of biopsy:

  • Core needle biopsy or vacuum assisted biopsy-using suction to collect several tissue samples
  • Wire localization -locating the mass in preparation for surgical biopsy 

Getting Tagged, Recovery, and Self-Care

A fine needle or core needle biopsy will leave a small external scar, and a vacuum-assisted biopsy (which may take eight or ten tissue samples) will leave a minor internal scar. Because that scar can show up on a mammogram or ultrasound, a tiny metal tag, clip or marker may be left at the biopsy site. This tag should not cause discomfort or harm; it will help radiology technologists and radiologists locate the biopsy site on future exams. Again, the tag is TINY (about the size of this asterisk * ) and will not interfere with airport security or future MRIÕs. The external scar from the stereotactic biopsy will be minimal.

It is normal to have some bruising and swelling after a biopsy. Use cold packs and ibuprofen while you are recovering. Recovery usually takes about 24 hours. The binding can be removed the morning after the biopsy after which showering or bathing can be resumed as usual. If you have bleeding, drainage or inflammation, alert your doctor.

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For questions about a biopsy at Bell Hospital please call 485-2632

(This information is intended to serve as a simple guide. It can never replace the conversations with your own doctor. It is not a substitute for professional care.)

(Some information on this page was provided courtesy of The St. John Companies, Inc. PO Box 800460 Santa Clarita, CA 91380)