Percutaneous Needle Biopsy

This information will help you prepare for your percutaneous needle biopsy procedure at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK).

During your percutaneous needle biopsy, your radiology doctor will insert a needle through your skin to get a sample of your cells or tissue.

Before Your Procedure

Ask about your medications

You may need to stop taking some of your medications before your procedure. Talk with your doctor about which medications are safe for you. We have included some common examples below.

If you take medication that affects the way your blood clots, ask the doctor performing your procedure what to do. The doctor’s contact information is listed at the end of this resource. Some examples of these medications are:

  • aspirin
  • warfarin (Coumadin®)
  • dalteparin (Fragmin®)
  • heparin
  • tinzaparin (Innohep®)
  • enoxaparin (Lovenox®)
  • clopidogrel (Plavix®)
  • cilostazol (Pletal®)
  • prasugrel (Effient®)
  • dabigatran (Pradaxa®)
  • ticagrelor (Brilinta®)
  • ticlopidine (Ticlid®)

Whether he or she recommends you stop taking it will depend on the reason you are taking it. Do not stop taking any of these medications without talking with your doctor.

  • If you take insulin or other medications for diabetes, you may need to change the dose before your procedure. Ask the doctor who prescribes your diabetes medication what you should do the morning of your procedure.
  • Please review the information in the resource Common Medications Containing Aspirin and Other Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). It includes important information about medications you’ll need to avoid before your procedure and what medications you can take instead.

Arrange for someone to take you home.

If you will be leaving the hospital the same day as your procedure, you must have a responsible adult with you when you’re discharged from the recovery area. If you don’t have someone who can do this, please call one of the agencies below. They will help find someone to take you home.

In New York:

  • Partners in Care: 888-735-8913
  • Prime Care 212-944-0244

In New York or New Jersey:

  • Caring People: 877-227-4649

Tell us if you’re sick

If you develop any illness (fever, cold, sore throat, or flu) before your procedure, please call a nurse in Interventional Radiology at 212-639-2236. A nurse is available Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. After 5:00 pm, during the weekend, and on holidays, call 212-639-2000 and ask for the Interventional Radiology fellow on call.

Note the time of your appointment

A staff member from Interventional Radiology will call you 2 business days before your procedure. He or she will tell you what time you should arrive at the hospital for your procedure. If your procedure is scheduled on a Monday, you will be called on the Thursday before. If you don’t receive a call by 12:00 pm the business day before your procedure, please call 212-639-5051.

If you need to cancel your procedure for any reason, please call the doctor who scheduled it for you.

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The Day of Your Procedure

Between midnight and up until 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time, you may drink a total of 12 ounces of clear liquids (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. 12 ounces of clear liquid

Examples of clear liquids include:

  • Clear broth, bouillon, or consommé (no particles of dried food or seasonings) 
  • Gelatin, such as Jell-O® 
  • Clear fruit juices (no pulp), such as white cranberry, white grape, or apple 
  • Soda, such as 7-Up®, Sprite®, ginger ale, seltzer, or Gatorade® 
  • Coffee or tea, without milk or cream 

Things to remember

  • Take only the medications your doctor told you to take the morning of your procedure. Take them with a few sips of water.
  • Do not apply cream or petroleum jelly (Vaseline®). You can use deodorant and light moisturizers.
  • Remove any jewelry, including body piercings.
  • Leave all valuables, such as credit cards and jewelry, at home.
  • If you wear contact lenses, wear your glasses instead, if possible. If you don’t have glasses, please bring a case for your contacts.

What to bring with you

  • A list of the medications you take at home
  • Medications for breathing problems (such as inhalers), medications for chest pain, or both
  • A case for your glasses or contacts
  • Your Health Care Proxy form, if you have completed one
  • If you use a C-Pap or Bi-pap machine to sleep at night, please bring your machine with you, if possible. If you can’t bring your machine with you, we will give you one to use while you are in the hospital.

Where to park

Parking at MSK is available in the garage on East 66th Street between First and York Avenues. To reach the garage, enter East 66th Street from York Avenue. The garage is located about a quarter of a block toward First Avenue, on the right (north) side of the street. A pedestrian tunnel connects the garage to the hospital. For questions about pricing, call 212-639-2338. There are also nearby commercial garages on East 69th Street between First and Second Avenues and on East 65th Street between First and Second Avenues.

Where to go

Please arrive at the main building of MSK at 1275 York Avenue between East 67th and East 68th Streets. Take the M elevator to the 2nd floor. Enter through the glass doors and check in at the desk.

What to expect

Once you arrive at the hospital, doctors, nurses, and other staff members will ask you to state and spell your name and date of birth many times. This is for your safety. Patients with the same or similar names may be having procedures on the same day.

Your doctor may mark the side of the biopsy with a special pen, depending on where it is on your body. Your nurse will place an intravenous (IV) catheter into a vein in your hand or arm. You will receive medication to help you relax through the IV. You will lie on your back or stomach depending on where on your body the biopsy will be. You will be asked to stay in that position until the biopsy is done. Your team may use fluoroscopy (x-ray), computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or ultrasound to find the exact area to biopsy. Your doctor will mark the spot on your skin with ink.

Your doctor will clean the skin around the marked area, and cover it with a drape. He or she will use a small needle to numb your skin, and will insert the biopsy needle into the numbed area. The needle is about the same size as a needle used to draw blood. You may have more images taken to make sure that the needle is in the right position. Next your doctor will draw out cells or tissue will be through the needle. He or she may do this a few times, if there is not enough tissue taken the first time. You will then have more scans. At the end of the procedure, your doctor or nurse will clean your skin and put a small bandage on the biopsy site. The samples that your doctor took will be  sent to the lab to see if there are abnormal cells.

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After Your Procedure

In the recovery room

You will be taken to the recovery room, where you will stay for up to 3 hours. Tell your nurse if you:

  • Have increasing pain or discomfort
  • Feel lightheaded
  • Have trouble breathing
  • Have any symptoms that concern you

At home

  • You may resume your normal diet right away.
  • You may shower the day after your procedure. Remove the bandage before you shower.  Replace with an adhesive bandage such as a Band-Aid® after your shower. Do not take a tub bath or submerge the area in water for 24 hours.
  • You may resume your normal activities the day after the procedure.

Call Your Radiology Doctor or Nurse if You Have:

  • Increased pain at the site of the biopsy
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Any other symptom(s) that concerns you

You can reach your radiology doctor or nurse Monday through Friday, between 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, by calling 212-639-2236. After hours and on the weekends, call the paging operator at 212-639-2000 and ask for the interventional radiology fellow on call.

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