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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

How It's Done

In a skin biopsy, the area to be biopsied is numbed with a local anesthetic and thoroughly cleaned. Then a small piece of tissue is cut away using a sterile scalpel. Finally, the small wound is stitched closed.

In a needle biopsy, the biopsy area is numbed and cleaned, and a sterile hollow needle is inserted through the skin to take the sample.

In an endoscopic biopsy, a small sharp pinching instrument (forceps) at the end of the endoscope is used to snip off and remove a small tissue sample.

In an open biopsy under general anesthesia, a sample of tissue can be cut directly from an organ that has been exposed with a surgical incision.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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