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Heart  Biopsy

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Heart biopsy, also known as myocardial biopsy or cardiac biopsy is a diagnostic technique for detecting heart diseases. A small piece of tissue from the heart is removed and is examined under a microscope.

Why is a heart biopsy needed?

The heart muscle is examined to diagnose and confirm presence of several complications associated with it which could be:

  • Rejection after heart transplantation
  • Inflammation of the heart muscle- myocarditis
  • Cardiac disorders- cardiac amyloidosis, cardiomyopathy

How is heart biopsy conducted?

The sample of heart muscle tissue is obtained with the help of a small instrument known as bioptome, which it attached to a catheter. The operation will be performed by a cardiologist, who will be assisted by technician or nurse.

You lie down on the table and your chest will be connected to a heart monitoring device with the help of wires. Your head, neck and chest will be covered with sterile paper sheets and your doctor will determine which part of the body is suitable for the catheter to be inserted.

That specific area will be numbed with local anaesthesia and an incision will be made. Then the bioptome will be inserted through the catheter, usually into the neck vein. The movement of the bioptome will be continuously monitored with a moving X-ray (fluoroscopy), which is threaded to the heart. The cardiologist will then collect a small sample of tissue which will be sent to laboratory for further testing.

How to Prepare for Heart Biopsy?

Get your medicines, supplements, pills, OTC tablets, etc. along with the prescription. Let your doctor know the dosage and time for the medicine.

Tell your doctor if you are diabetic, have a medical complication, had surgery before or if you are allergic to something.

You may be admitted in the hospital a day before the operation. You will be asked not to eat or drink anything for 6 - 8 hours before the test.

You will be asked to change your clothes with a hospital gown and take off jewelry, glasses dentures and other belongings with you.

What to expect during the procedure?

You need to lie down still in one position on the operation table without moving your body, unless suggested by your doctor.

You won’t be sensing pain on the site of operation as it will be numbed. However, when the catheter is inserted and removed, you can feel firm pressure. Patients might feel dizzy, sense extra heart beats and experience hot flushes during removal of heart tissue. Let your doctor know if you experience those.

It takes 30-60 minutes for completion.

What to expect after the procedure?

After the catheter is removed, pressure is applied on the site to control bleeding. A bandage or ointment will be applied on the wound.

The doctor or nurse will help you to get up and explain you the after-care instructions for the wound, the precautions to be taken and when you can resume normal work. You must be careful.

Make sure someone accompanies you to home.

If you observe bleeding from the site or any other health complication after returning home, then inform your doctor immediately.

How results are interpreted?

Positive biopsy reports or abnormal reports indicate presence of abnormal heart muscle while negative reports mean normal.

Are there any risks associated with the procedure?

Risks are not common, however there could be chances of:

  • Accidental injury to vein or artery
  • Infection and bleeding of the wound
  • Irregular heart beat (cardiac arrythmia)

Your doctor will then follow up a treatment, which depends on the biopsy reports.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 17, 2015