It is sometimes necessary for an organ to be biopsied to make a diagnosis. Using ultrasound or the CT scanner, our trained Radiologists can position a needle in the right place to take a sample. Tissue samples can be obtained from any part of the body, and organs biopsied include the lungs, liver, kidneys and adrenal glands.
Using the same technique our Radiologists can also drain fluid from the chest or abdomen to relieve symptoms and also to send the fluid to the laboratory for testing to help make a diagnosis.
In cases of a recurrent pleural effusion (fluid within the lining of the lung) or recurrent ascites (fluid within the abdominal cavity) it may be decided that having a tunnelled long term drain (Pleurx) inserted is the right option for you.
Before starting, the Radiologist will run through the procedure with you and you will be asked to sign a written consent form. You will be asked if you are taking any blood thinning medication and if you have any allergies. The part of the body to be biopsied or drained will then be imaged using ultrasound or CT. After cleaning the area in question, local anaesthetic will then be injected to make the procedure as comfortable as possible for you.
In cases of a biopsy you may hear a click when the biopsy sample is taken. It is usual practice to take between 2-4 biopsy samples although this can vary depending on the nature of the procedure.
In cases of an abdominal or chest drain, a needle is used to guide insertion of a tube into the fluid. Once positioned correctly, the tube is connected to a bag and secured in place.
Biopsies: Once the biopsy samples have been obtained you will usually be monitored before being sent home the same day. On a small number of occasions it may be necessary to stay in hospital overnight. In cases of a lung biopsy you will need a Chest X-Ray before discharge to ensure there is no significant air leak (pneumothorax).
Drainage: Usually you will need to stay in at least overnight but in some cases the drain may be removed the same day and you can be discharged if you are feeling well. In cases of a Pleurx drain, you will be discharged with the drain in place and you will be given instructions on how to manage this at home before leaving the hospital.
All biopsies and drainage procedures have a risk of bleeding, which is why you may need to temporarily stop blood thinning medication such as aspirin, warfarin or clopidogrel before the procedure. It may also be necessary to check a blood test before the procedure.
All procedures carry a risk of infection however this is minimised by carrying out the procedure in sterile conditions.
Taking a biopsy or placing a drain in different parts of the body carries different risks. For example with a lung biopsy, the most important risk is that of an air leak within the lining of the lung (pneumothorax) which in a small number of cases may mean a chest drain will need to be inserted and an overnight stay. The Radiologist will run through the specific risks of the procedure prior to starting the procedure and you will have the opportunity to ask questions.