Muscle biopsy

A biopsy is a minor surgical procedure lasting about an hour where a small incision is made to remove a piece of tissue from your body. You will be awake during the procedure. The most common muscle biopsy sites are the upper arm, the shoulder, and the upper thigh.

Biopsies let the doctor look at a small piece of your muscle under a microscope. The doctor can then accurately diagnose a problem and determine if a specific treatment is helpful.

What happens before the biopsy?

The doctor will get a medical history and do a physical exam before scheduling your biopsy. The doctor may want blood work and testing of your muscles.

Please tell the doctor:

  • If you have any allergies
  • What medicines you are taking
  • If you have a history of bleeding problems
  • If you take medicines, such as Coumadin, Plavix, aspirin, or any other blood thinners
  • If you are diabetic

What happens on the day of my biopsy?

If you are taking medications, take them as usual unless you are told otherwise by your doctor. It is likely your doctor will arrange for you to stop taking blood thinners for a short time. You may eat a light meal before the biopsy.

The procedure is performed in the Neurology Clinic.

  1. A nurse or medical assistant will check your blood pressure and pulse.
  2. Your skin will be scrubbed with surgical soap.
  3. Sterile towels will be put around the biopsy site to keep it clean.
  4. The biopsy site will be numbed using a medicine called lidocaine. Lidocaine, given by needle injection, is like novocain used in dental offices. It may burn or sting for a few seconds while it takes effect. The site will be numb within one to two minutes.
  5. The doctor will make a small incision.
  6. A small piece of muscle tissue will be removed. Some discomfort may be experienced for a brief moment. 
  7. The incision will be closed using a few stitches and glue before being covered by a sterile dressing.

What to do after my biopsy?

  • You will need someone to drive you home. Take it easy for the next one to two days.
  • Written instructions will be given on how to care for the biopsy site. These instructions will be explained in greater detail.
  • Ask for a work release, if needed, before leaving the hospital. 

When do I get the biopsy results?

It takes two to three weeks for the biopsy results to be available. Please call your doctor’s office if you have not heard from your doctor three weeks after the biopsy.

General information

  • Family or friends accompanying you for your biopsy may wait at the reception area in the Neurology Clinic.
  • If you have questions or concerns about your biopsy, do not hesitate to call the neuromuscular nurse at 319-356-8958.
Last reviewed: 
May 2017

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