Biopsy - biliary tract
A biliary tract biopsy is the removal of tissue or substances from the duodenum, bile ducts, pancreas, or pancreatic duct for examination under a microscope.
Cytology analysis - biliary tract; Biliary tract biopsy
How the Test is Performed
Your doctor can obtain a sample for a biliary tract biopsy in different ways.
A needle biopsy can be done if you have a well-defined tumor. The biopsy site is cleaned. A thin needle is inserted into the area to be tested, and a sample of cells and fluid are removed. The needle is then removed. Pressure is applied to the biopsy site to stop any bleeding. The site will be covered with a bandage. See also: Aspiration
If you have a narrowing or blockage of the bile or pancreatic ducts, a sample can be taken during procedures such as:
- Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
- Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiogram (PTCA)
How to Prepare for the Test
You may not be able to eat or drink 8-12 hours or more before the test. Your health care provider will give you specific instructions.
Make sure you have someone to drive you home.
How the Test Will Feel
How the test will feel depends on the specific procedure used to remove the tissue or fluid sample for the biopsy.
In general, if you have a needle biopsy, you may feel a sting as the needle is inserted. Some people feel a cramping or pinching sensation during the procedure.
For other biliary tract biopsy methods, you will likely be given medicines to prevent pain and to help you relax.
Why the Test is Performed
A biliary tract biopsy can determine whether a tumor started in the liver or spread from another location. It also can determine if the tumor is cancerous.
This test may be done:
- After a doctor's examination, x-ray, MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound shows abnormal growths in your biliary tract
- To test for diseases or infection
A normal result means there are no signs of cancer, disease, or infection in the biopsy sample.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results may be due to:
- Cancer of the bile ducts (cholangiocarcinoma)
- Cysts in the liver
- Liver cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Swelling and scarring of the bile ducts (primary sclerosing cholangitis)
Risks depend on how the biopsy sample was taken.
In general, risks may include:
- Bleeding at the biopsy site
Afdahl NH. Diseases of the gall bladder and bile ducts. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 159.
Stockland AH, Baron TH. Endoscopic and radiologic treatment of biliary disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 70.
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.