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Biopsy - biliary tract

Biopsy - biliary tract


Cytology analysis - biliary tract; Biliary tract biopsy

A biliary tract biopsy is the removal of small amount of cells and fluids from the duodenum, bile ducts, pancreas, or pancreatic duct. he sample is examined under a microscope.

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • How the Test is Performed

    Your doctor can take 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 put on the area to stop any bleeding. The site will be covered with a bandage.

    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 tell you ahead of time what you need to do.

    Make sure you have someone to drive you home.

  • How the Test will Feel

    How the test will feel depends on the type of procedure used to remove the biopsy sample. With a needle biopsy,  you may feel a sting as the needle is inserted. Some people feel a cramping or pinching feeling during the procedure.

    Medicines that stop pain and help you relax are commonly used for other biliary tract biopsy methods.

  • Why the Test is Performed

    A biliary tract biopsy can determine if 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
  • Normal Results

    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

    Risks depend on how the biopsy sample was taken.

    Risks may include:

    • Bleeding at the biopsy site
    • Infection

Related Information

  DuodenumBileMalignancyX-rayMRIUltrasoundHepaticCystPancreatic cancer...Cholangiocarcinoma...    


Afdahl NH. Diseases of the gall bladder and bile ducts In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 158.

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.


Review Date: 1/22/2013  

Reviewed By: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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