Stereotactic Brain Biopsy

What is Stereotactic Brain Biopsy?

A stereotactic brain biopsy is a diagnostic technique used to acquire samples of brain tissue. It can be very helpful in determining the presence of a tumor, infection, vascular abnormality or cancerous cells. This minimally invasive procedure employs advanced technology including MRI or CT scans and three-dimensional computer imaging to safely and precisely reach a specific area of the brain. The ease and safety of this procedure is well documented.

Surgeons may opt to use a stereotactic brain biopsy rather than a traditional biopsy when there is more than one area of the brain that must be reached or the area in question is an interior portion of the brain that is difficult and dangerous to access. It is also beneficial for those people who do not tolerate anesthesia well as only sedation is necessary for most patients.

The Stereotactic Brain Biopsy Procedure

This procedure begins with the patient’s head carefully positioned and placed in a fixation device. The areas of the head that will be in contact with the device are numbed for the patient’s comfort. A CT or MRI scan is taken of the brain and a computer will be used to read the scan and locate the precise area of the brain tissue to be sampled. The patient may be given medication to provide light sedation or a topical anesthetic may be applied.




A section of hair is shaved and the area is cleaned with an antiseptic solution. A very small incision is made in the skin of the scalp. Special instruments are then used to drill a tiny hole in the exposed bone of the skull. Using the imaging scans taken and 3D computer technology, the surgeon will guide the biopsy needle into the specific area of the brain targeted and withdraw a tissue sample. Once it is collected, the needle is removed and the incision is sutured closed.

The biopsy is typically completed within one hour. The brain tissue sample will be sent to a pathology laboratory for examination right away. The results of the stereotactic brain biopsy are usually available in a few days, and will be discussed with the patient at that point.

Recovery from Stereotactic Brain Biopsy

There is minimal downtime associated with a stereotactic brain biopsy. Patients remain on-site for a few hours after the procedure to be monitored. An imaging scan may be performed to ensure that there is no inflammation or bleeding at the site of the biopsy. Once they are cleared, patients can return home and resume their normal activities. Some patients experience headaches later in the day after the biopsy, but these generally respond well to over-the-counter medication and disappear by the following day.

Risks of Stereotactic Brain Biopsy

Complications resulting from a stereotactic brain biopsy are rare, but all surgical procedures do carry some form of risk. Stereotactic brain biopsy risks include requiring a second biopsy procedure, infection, seizure or bleeding in the brain. Your surgeon will do everything possible to minimize these risks and ensure that the stereotactic brain biopsy is performed smoothly and safely.

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