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Lymph Node Biopsy

How It Is Done continued...

You may need to take off all or some of your clothes. If needed, you will be given a cloth or paper covering to use during the biopsy.

You will lie on an examination table and your body will be positioned to allow the doctor to take the biopsy sample. The skin over the biopsy site will be cleaned with a special soap. The area is covered with a sterile sheet. A small cut will be made so the whole lymph node or a slice of it can be taken out.

Stitches are used to close the skin, and a bandage is put on. You will be taken to a recovery room until you are fully awake. You can usually return to your normal activities the next day.

An open biopsy usually takes from 30 to 60 minutes. If you have had a lymph node dissection to remove cancer, the surgery may take longer.

How It Feels

You will feel only a quick sting from the needle if you have a local anesthesia to numb the biopsy area. You may feel some pressure when the biopsy needle is put in. After a fine-needle aspiration biopsy or core needle biopsy, the site may be tender for 2 to 3 days. You also may have a bruise around the site.

If you have general anesthesia for an open lymph node biopsy, you will not be awake during the biopsy. After you wake up, the area may be numb from a local anesthetic that was put into the biopsy site. You will also feel sleepy for several hours.

For 1 to 2 days after an open lymph node biopsy, you may feel tired. You may also have a mild sore throat if a tube was used to help you breathe during the biopsy. Using throat lozenges and gargling with warm salt water may help with the sore throat.

After an open biopsy, the area may feel tender, firm, swollen, and bruised. Fluid may collect near the biopsy site. Fluid may also leak from the biopsy site. You can use an ice pack or take an over-the-counter pain medicine (not aspirin) to help relieve swelling and mild pain. The tenderness should go away in about a week, and the bruising usually fades within 2 weeks. But the firmness and swelling may last for 6 to 8 weeks. Do not do any heavy lifting or other activities that stretch or pull the muscles around the area.

Risks

There is a chance of an infection at the biopsy site. An infection can be treated with antibiotics.

Call your doctor immediately if:

  • Your pain lasts longer than a week.
  • You have redness, a lot of swelling, bleeding, or pus from the biopsy site.
  • You have a fever.
  • There is fluid buildup in the area where the lymph node was taken out. This occurs most often when removing the lymph nodes that run in a line from under the arm to the collarbone (axillary lymph nodes). This can happen immediately after surgery or even months or years later. Most people who have a lymph node biopsy do not have a problem with fluid buildup.
  • You have numbness in the skin near the biopsy site. This may be caused by nerve damage.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 18, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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