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Needle Biopsy of the Pancreas: About This Test

What is it?

Needle pancreas biopsy is a procedure to take a tiny sample (biopsy) of your pancreas tissue. Procedures called core biopsy or fine-needle aspiration are used. The tissue sample will be checked under a microscope for cancer or other problems. It may take a few days to get the results.

Why is this test done?

A pancreas biopsy may be done when an ultrasound, a CT scan, or an MRI shows a problem with the pancreas.

How do you prepare for the test?

  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your test. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the test and how soon to do it.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your test. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your test may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the test, take them with only a sip of water.

How is the test done?

  • You will need to take off all or most of your clothes. You will be given a cloth or paper gown to use during the test.
  • You may be given a sedative through a vein (IV) in your arm. The sedative will help you relax and stay still.
  • The area where the needle will go in will be numbed.
  • Your doctor will use ultrasound or a CT scan to help guide the biopsy needle into your pancreas.
  • Your doctor will use the needle to take a small sample of tissue from your pancreas. Then he or she will remove the needle.
  • Pressure will be applied to stop the bleeding. A bandage will be put on the puncture site.

How long does the test take?

The test will take about 30 to 60 minutes.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • You will be watched for 1 or 2 hours after the biopsy while the sedative wears off. You will be checked for any signs of internal bleeding.
  • You can go home if you have no problems after the test.

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired.
  • Avoid exercises that use your belly muscles, aerobic exercises, and strenuous activities such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting for 1 week or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • You will probably need to take 1 or 2 days off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
  • You will probably be able to shower the same day as the test, if your doctor says it is okay. Pat the puncture site dry. Do not take a bath for at least 2 days after the test, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if and when to start taking it again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

Care of the puncture site

  • Keep a bandage over the puncture site for the first 1 or 2 days.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse belly pain, swelling, or bloating.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over the puncture site.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the puncture site.
    • Pus draining from the puncture site.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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