Ultrasound Guided Breast Biopsy


What is an Ultrasound Guided Breast Biopsy and what does it do?

Lumps or abnormalities in the breast are often detected by physical examination, mammography, or other imaging studies. However, it is not always possible to tell from these imaging tests whether a growth is benign or cancerous.

A breast biopsy is performed to remove some cells—either surgically or through a less invasive procedure involving a hollow needle—from a suspicious area in the breast and examine them under a microscope to determine a diagnosis. Image-guided needle biopsy is not designed to remove the entire lesion, but most of a very small lesion may be removed in the process of biopsy.

In ultrasound-guided breast biopsy, ultrasound imaging is used to help guide the doctor's instruments to the site of the abnormal growth.

An ultrasound-guided breast biopsy can be performed when a breast ultrasound shows an abnormality such as:
  • a suspicious solid mass
  • a distortion in the structure of the breast tissue
  • an area of abnormal tissue change

One of four instruments will be used:
  • A fine needle attached to a syringe, smaller than needles typically used to draw blood.
  • A core needle, also called an automatic, spring-loaded needle, which consists of an inner needle connected to a trough, or shallow receptacle, covered by a sheath and attached to a spring-loaded mechanism.
  • A vacuum-assisted device (VAD), a vacuum-powered instrument that uses pressure to pull tissue into the needle.
  • A thin guide wire, which is used for a surgical biopsy.

Who performs the test?

The biopsy itself is performed by a physician with the assistance of an ultrasonographer specifically trained or certified in Ultrasound imaging.

Where does it take place?

At Jackson Hospital in the Radiology Department.

How long does it take?

This exam generally takes about 45 minutes to complete.

What you can do to make it a success?

Prior to a needle biopsy, you should report to your doctor all medications that you are taking, including herbal supplements, and if you have any allergies, especially to anesthesia. Your physician will advise you to stop taking aspirin or a blood thinner three days before your procedure.

Also, inform your doctor about recent illnesses or other medical conditions.You may want to have a relative or friend accompany you and drive you home afterward.

What to do before your exam?

No special preparation is needed for this study.

What happens during your exam?

  • Breast biopsies are usually done on an outpatient basis.
  • You will be positioned lying face up on the examination table or turned slightly to the side.
  • A local anesthetic will be injected into the breast to numb it.
  • Pressing the transducer to the breast, the sonographer or doctor will locate the lesion.
  • A very small nick is made in the skin at the site where the biopsy needle is to be inserted.
  • The doctor, monitoring the lesion site with the ultrasound probe, will insert the needle and advance it directly into the mass.

Tissue samples are then removed using one of three methods:
  • In a fine needle aspiration, a fine gauge needle and a syringe withdraw fluid or clusters of cells.
  • In a core needle biopsy, the automated mechanism is activated, moving the needle forward and filling the needle trough, or shallow receptacle, with 'cores' of breast tissue. The outer sheath instantly moves forward to cut the tissue and keep it in the trough. This process is repeated three to six times.
  • With a vacuum-assisted device (VAD), vacuum pressure is used to pull tissue from the breast through the needle into the sampling chamber. Without withdrawing and reinserting the needle, it rotates positions and collects additional samples. Typically, eight to 10 samples of tissue are collected from around the lesion.
  • After this sampling, the needle will be removed.
  • If a surgical biopsy is being performed, a wire is inserted into the suspicious area as a guide for the surgeon.
  • A small marker may be placed at the site so that it can be located in the future if necessary.
  • Once the biopsy is complete, pressure will be applied to stop any bleeding and the opening in the skin is covered with a dressing. No sutures are needed.
  • A mammogram may be performed to confirm that the marker is in the proper position.
  • This procedure is usually completed within an hour.

What to do after your exam?

You will be given detailed discharge instructions to take home with you. These will have your after care instructions, what to watch for and contact information.

Contact Information:

Ultrasound Department (at main hospital): (850) 718-2582
Ultrasound Department (at OP Center): (850) 526-6702
Radiology Department: (850) 718-2580
Hospital (main operator): (850) 526-2200