What is a myocardial biopsy?

A myocardial biopsy, also known as a heart or cardiac biopsy, is a diagnostic procedure that is performed to examine the heart muscle to detect heart disease.

During the invasive procedure, a small catheter is threaded into the heart to obtain a piece of heart muscle for evaluation. In some patients, a myocardial biopsy is performed during a cardiac catheterization. In 10 to 20 percent of cases, a myocardial biopsy can reveal the specific diagnosis.

Who is a candidate for a myocardial biopsy?

Your Mercy Health doctor may recommend a myocardial biopsy if he or she suspects damage to the heart muscle and to determine if:

  • Your body has accepted the new heart after a heart transplant
  • You have inflamed heart muscle from conditions such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

How is a myocardial biopsy performed?

You will be awake during the procedure, but you will be given a mild sedative to relax you. Your Mercy Health doctor will cut a small incision in the neck to reach a blood vessel. He or she will insert a catheter with a small instrument on the end into the vessel. The instrument is threaded down to the right ventricle, where your doctor can obtain samples of the heart muscle. Once the samples have been collected, your doctor will send the samples to the laboratory for evaluation. The heart muscle samples are very small — about the size of the top of a pin.

A myocardial biopsy procedure takes approximately 30 to 60 minutes to perform and patients typically go home after the procedure.  

What are risks associated with having a myocardial biopsy?

Although complications associated with myocardial biopsy are rare, it is important to be aware of what to look out for after the procedure. Risks include:

  • Severe bleeding
  • Blood clots 
  • Arrhythmias 
  • Collapsed lung 
  • Infection 

Recovery from a myocardial biopsy?

Patients who undergo a myocardial biopsy typically go home that day. Your doctor will monitor you for a couple hours before discharge to ensure you are not experiencing any complications. Once discharged, you will need someone to drive you home.

Your healthcare team will give you detailed instructions on when you can return to your day-to-day activities as well as how to care for your incision site.

Results from a myocardial biopsy

Your doctor will evaluate your results to determine if you have any damage to your heart muscle. Conditions that could lead to abnormal results include:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Inflamed heart muscle (myocarditis)
  • Rejection from a heart transplant 
  • Heart damage for severe alcoholism
Your Mercy Health cardiac team will determine the most appropriate treatment for your case if you have abnormal results.

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