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Lymph Node Biopsy

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Lymph node biopsy is a diagnostic procedure wherein the lymph node is removed or a sample tissue is swabbed to be examined under a microscope for presence of infections and cancer.

Several medical procedures are applied to collect the tissue sample and we shall explain the details in the following segment.

Why is Lymph Node Biopsy done?

The biopsy helps to sort out various problems pertaining to lymph nodes.

The lymph node biopsy is done to:

  • Find out the underlying reason behind swollen lymph glands
  • Check if any type of cancer has spread to the lymph nodes
  • Know if consistent fever, weight loss and infections are associated with the lymph nodes
  • Eradicate cancer in lymph nodes

How to prepare for the test?

  • During the appointment, you need to tell your doctor about the medicines you are taking or if you are allergic to any substance like latex, medicines or anaesthetics and if you have bleeding problems
  • Your must tell your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to conceive
  • Your doctor will schedule an appointment for you and you will be restricted from taking blood thinners at least five days before. All these changes including consumption of food and fluids will be explained by your doctor prior to the operation
  • You will be given local or general anaesthesia before undergoing the test
  • The site of biopsy is first cleaned with antiseptic

How is Lymph node biopsy carried out?

Three techniques are commonly used to perform the biopsy:

Needle Biopsy

A fine needle is inserted in the lymph node by your doctor to aspirate the tissue. The pierced area of the skin is then covered with a bandage.

Open Biopsy

A cut is made on the skin to remove a portion or the whole lymph node to collect a bigger portion of the tissue. It takes about 30-45 minutes for completion

Sentinel Biopsy

This is done to remove a cancerous sentinel lymph node (SLN). A blue dye radioactive substance is injected to located the SLN and then a small incision is made to remove the affected lymph node

How do you feel like after the operation?

You feel like that typical “injection prick” when the needles are inserted. The operation site will remain sore and tender for a few days and moreover, if it was an open biopsy then the incision will take 10-14 days to heal. Pain and swelling will be there for which your doctor may prescribe pain killers.

Leakage of fluid may occur in the site of biopsy. You will not be allowed to lift heavy objects or undergo any activity or exercise that can exert pressure on the operated site.

Risk associated with Lymph node Biopsy

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  • Chances of infection in the wound
  • Bleeding, abnormal swelling, accumulation of pus and fluids
  • Numbness in the site due to nerve injury
  • Lingering pain more than a week
  • High fever

Call or see your doctor immediately if you observe the aforementioned symptoms

Lymph Node Biopsy Test Results

The reports will be handed over by your doctor within a week, depending on the type of biopsy you underwent. If the count of lymph nodes and the morphology is normal then test reports are also normal. Abnormal results indicate presence of infections (e.g. mononucleosis, HIV and tuberculosis) and cancers (breast cancer, lung cancer, oral cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, etc.)

Your doctor may suggest additional tests or directly begin the treatments depending on the test results. Post operative care is utmost important for healing and at the same time prepare yourself for the treatment of any underlying abnormality.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta

Date last updated: January 11, 2015