What is a bile duct biopsy?

A bile duct biopsy is a diagnostic procedure where cells and fluid from the bile duct are removed to be examined for cancer. In some cases, the biopsy is performed as a part of another procedure or it can be performed as a stand-alone procedure.

Who is a candidate for a bile duct biopsy

Your doctor may order a bile duct biopsy if he or she cannot confirm bile duct cancer based upon imaging test results.

If your doctor thinks your cancer is in a place that is hard to biopsy, he or she may not order the test. In this case, the surgeon may perform a surgical procedure to remove the abnormal tissue and confirm the diagnosis during the surgery.

Risks of a bile duct biopsy

Although a bile duct biopsy is generally a safe procedure, there can be risks. Risks associated with a bile duct biopsy include:

What to expect during a bile duct biopsy

If you are having a bile duct biopsy as a stand-alone procedure, your doctor may use imaging guidance to insert a thin, hollow needle directly into the bile duct tumor. A sample of cells and fluid are removed from the tumor and sent to a pathologist for review under a microscope.

If there is narrowing in the bile ducts, your doctor may take a sample in a procedure called an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) or percutaneous transhepatic cholangiogram (PTCA).

Recovery from a bile duct biopsy

If you are having a needle bile duct biopsy, it can be performed in a clinic setting. You will be able to go home after the procedure and resume normal activities within a day. If you have a bile duct biopsy in conjunction with another procedure, recovery may be longer.

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