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Lymph Node Biopsy : Purpose, Procedure, Types, and Results

  • Posted on- Apr 16, 2018
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Lymph nodes are found throughout the body. They are part of the body’s immune system. These nodes help fight infection by producing special white blood cells. They also work by trapping bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells.

Normally, lymph nodes cannot be felt unless they are swollen. Infection, usually by a virus, is the most common cause of lymph node swelling. Other causes include bacterial infection and cancer.

With this type of biopsy, the doctor removes and examines all or part of a lymph node.

Reasons for Lymph Node Biopsy

This biopsy is done to find out why a node is swollen. It can also be done to see if there are cancer cells in the lymph node.

Common areas for Lymph Node Biopsy include:

  • Groin
  • Armpit
  • Neck
  • Under the jaw and chin
  • Behind the ears

Possible Complications associated with Lymph Node Biopsy

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If the patient is planning to have a lymph node biopsy, the doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Swelling
  • Nerve damage, including numbness at the biopsy site

What to Expect from Lymph Node Biopsy

Prior to the Procedure:

Leading up to Lymph Node Biopsy, you will need to:

  • Talk to the doctor about the patient’s medical history, including:
  • Any allergies that the patient is having
  • Any medications that the patient is taking, including over-the-counter drugs and herbs and supplements. The patient may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
  • Arrange for a ride home from the care center.
  • Avoid eating or drinking anything after midnight if the patient will be under general anesthesia.


  • Local anesthesia—Just the area that is being operated on is numbed.
  • General anesthesia is used for open biopsies—General anesthesia blocks pain and keeps you asleep through the procedure.

Description of Lymph Node Biopsy

Lymph nodes samples can be obtained by:

Needle Biopsy

There are 2 types of needle biopsies:

  • Fine needle biopsy—a thin, hollow needle is used to obtain tissue samples.
  • Core needle biopsy—a larger needle is used to cut out a piece of tissue.

An ultrasound or CT scan may be used to help locate the biopsy site.

Open Biopsy

An open biopsy means removing the lymph nodes through an incision. A cut will be made in the skin. All or part of a lymph node will be removed. After removal, the incision will be closed with stitches and bandaged.


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