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Superficial lymph node biopsy: Care instructions

Superficial Lymph Node Biopsy

Care instructions

Ultrasound-guided superficial lymph node biopsy is a medical procedure. It’s done by a doctor (radiologist). They use ultrasound (high-frequency radio waves) to see your lymph node, usually in your neck, armpit, or groin. Then they use a needle to take small tissue samples from your lymph node to check for lymphoma (a type of cancer) or other possible problems.

Sometimes the biopsy might need to happen deeper in your body. Then the doctor may choose to guide the needle with either ultrasound or computed tomography (CT, which is a machine that uses a series of x-rays to form a picture). Because this sort of biopsy is of a deeper area, there may be more risks, and you will probably have to stay at the hospital for 2 to 4 hours after the procedure.

Your doctor will talk to you about any risks before your procedure.

What should I do before the biopsy?

If you take blood thinners (such as baby aspirin, heparin, Coumadin, Plavix, Pradaxa, Entrophen, or herbal medicines), tell your doctor. You may need to stop taking some of these medicines before your biopsy.

You may need to stop eating 6 hours before your biopsy. Take your regular medicine (such as blood pressure medicine) with sips of water.

If you need help with speaking and understanding English, ask someone to come with you to your appointment to help you, in case an interpreter is not available.

What happens during the biopsy?

Your appointment will take about 30 minutes. The biopsy takes 15 to 20 minutes.

An ultrasound technician may start by doing an ultrasound of your lymph node (or nodes if the doctor needs a sample from more than 1). The doctor will look at these images and talk to you about the procedure and which lymph node they will biopsy. They will also talk to you about the risks and why you’re having the biopsy.

The doctor will move your body so they can get to your lymph node. Then they’ll make a small mark on your skin and clean the area.

Freezing medicine (local anesthesia or numbing medicine) will be injected into the area using a thin freezing needle. When the freezing medicine starts to work, you should only feel pressure at the biopsy area. If you feel pain, tell the doctor so you can get more freezing medicine.

Next, the doctor will use ultrasound to look at the lymph node and take small tissue samples. They need to get at least 3 samples to check for lymphoma, sometimes more. When the needle collects each sample you will hear a clicking sound.

If you feel dizzy, short of breath, or uncomfortable during the procedure, tell the doctor right away.

When the biopsy is done, you will have a small gauze over the area in case there’s a bit of bleeding. Then you can go home.

If you have any questions, ask the doctor.

What should I do after the biopsy?

After your biopsy, you can go home and rest for the day. You might have a little bruising and tenderness.

You can take all your regular medicines after the procedure. You can start taking blood thinners again if there’s no bleeding. Contact your doctor if you have questions about your medicine.

You may go back to work the next day if you’re feeling well.

Don’t lift anything heavy or do any hard activity (such as exercise) for 2 to 3 days after your biopsy, especially if you had a groin biopsy. If you aren’t sure if an activity is safe for you after your biopsy, check with your doctor.

Don’t travel out of the country for 7 days after the procedure.

What are the risks?

The main risks of this procedure are getting an infection, bleeding a lot, or bleeding that won’t stop. But these problems are rare.

Signs of infection include a fever (temperature higher than 37.8°C or 100°F), chills, sweats, or shaking.

Go to the closest emergency department right away if you have signs of infection or bleeding after the biopsy.

When will I get my results?

The doctor who ordered your biopsy will get the results in 2 to 3 weeks, sometimes sooner. Some doctors will call you to talk about your results. Others will make an appointment to talk about the results with you.

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Current as of: August 17, 2020

Author: Cancer Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services

This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.