Biopsy - biliary tract

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

  • Alternative Names
    • Cytology analysis - biliary tract; Biliary tract biopsy

  • How the Test is Performed
    • A sample for a biliary tract biopsy can be obtained 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 to 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 physical exam, 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
  • Risks
    • Risks depend on how the biopsy sample was taken.

      Risks may include:

      • Bleeding at the biopsy site
      • Infection
  • References
    • Fogel EL, Sherman S. Diseases of the gall bladder and bile ducts. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016: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: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 70.