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What is a Spinal Biopsy?

A spinal biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of bone tissue or cells is removed from your spine and examined under a microscope in the laboratory for tumor, infection, or other spinal disorders. To obtain the sample, a needle is inserted into the area of concern under CT fluoroscopy (live x-ray) which guides the biopsy needle to the correct location and the tissue or fluid is drawn into a syringe for detailed examination.

Indication for Spinal Biopsy

Spinal biopsy may be indicated for:

  • Confirm the diagnosis of a spinal disorder
  • Examine a suspicious region discovered on a bone scan, X-ray, CT scan, or MRI scan
  • Differentiate between infection or a bone tumor
  • Identify whether a tumor is benign or cancerous
  • Evaluate the cause of a spinal disorder

Preparation for Spinal Biopsy

In general, pre-procedure preparation for spinal biopsy will involve the following steps:

  • You will be asked if you have allergies to medications, anesthesia, or latex.
  • You should inform your doctor of any medications, vitamins, or supplements that you are taking.
  • You should refrain from taking anti-inflammatories or blood-thinning medications a week prior to the procedure.
  • It is also important to inform your doctor if you are pregnant or might be pregnant, diabetic, asthmatic, or have any other medical conditions.
  • You may be asked to refrain from eating or drinking 6 hours prior to the procedure.
  • You should remove all metal objects and accessories such as eyeglasses, jewelry, watch, etc. as they can interfere with the imaging technique used.
  • You should arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure.
  • A written consent will be obtained from you after the procedure has been explained in detail.

Procedure for Spinal Biopsy

Spinal biopsy is usually performed as an outpatient procedure and takes about 30 to 60 minutes. In general, the procedure will involve the following steps:

  • You will lie on your stomach on the operating table.
  • The concerned spinal area is cleaned with an antiseptic solution and a numbing medication (local anesthetic) is administered with a needle to numb the biopsy area.
  • Sedative and intravenous (IV) pain medication may also be given to keep you calm during the procedure.
  • Under CT fluoroscopic guidance (live x-ray), your surgeon inserts a fine needle into the treatment area through the skin and directly into the bone.
  • Once an adequate sample is obtained from the spine, the needle is withdrawn, and a small bandage is applied to the injection site.
  • The specimen obtained is studied in the laboratory and the results help your doctor determine a diagnosis.

Post-Procedure Care

In general, post-procedure care instructions and recovery after spinal biopsy will involve the following steps:

  • You will be transferred to the recovery area where you will be observed for an hour for any allergic/anesthetic reactions and discharged home thereafter.
  • You may experience some pain and soreness at the biopsy site for a few days. Pain and anti-inflammatory medicines are provided as needed. Administration of ice packs is also advised to mitigate soreness.
  • Refrain from operating heavy machinery or driving for at least 24 hours.
  • Refrain from consuming alcohol for at least 24 hours.
  • Instructions on biopsy site area care and bathing will be provided. The bandage will stay on for a couple of days, but you may shower the very next day of the procedure.
  • You will be able to resume your normal activities the following day but may have certain activity restrictions.
  • A follow-up visit will be scheduled to monitor your progress.

Risks and Complications

Spinal biopsy is a relatively safe procedure; however, as with any procedure, some risks and complications may occur, such as:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Soreness/swelling
  • Nerve or blood vessel damage
  • Allergy/anesthetic reactions
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