Stereotactic Breast Biopsy

Stereotactic breast biopsy is a safe and minimally invasive form of breast biopsy. It is used to obtain tiny samples from an abnormal breast mass for examination by a pathologist. Biopsies are the only definitive way to confirm that a breast abnormality is benign (non-cancerous) or not.

The Test

Stereotactic breast biopsy is an alternative to open or surgical biopsy. A sample of suspect breast tissue is precisely located with a computer-guided imaging system and removed with a needle. The procedure is completed on an outpatient basis with a minimum of discomfort and recovery time.

How It Works

Two x-ray images of breast tissue are taken at different angles. A computer uses the images to locate the abnormality and calculate precise coordinates. Then the computer guides the physician in placing a needle at the target.

What To Expect

Feel free to bring a family member or friend to your appointment for their support.

  • You’ll be asked to undress from the waist up and put on a front-opening gown.
  • In the biopsy room, you’ll lie on your stomach on a special table with a hole through which the breast is placed and aligned with the imaging unit beneath. You can expect to be in the biopsy room for an hour or longer and you’ll be awake throughout the procedure.
  • The physician performing the procedure will have studied your mammogram to become familiar with the location of the abnormal tissue in your breast. A confirming x-ray is taken to insure that the breast is positioned correctly.
  • The skin on your breast will be cleansed; then a local anesthetic is injected with a very fine needle. You may feel a slight sting.
  • Your breast will be slightly compressed, just as in a mammogram.
  • A small nick is made in your skin and a thin, hollow needle is inserted through the nick. Because of the local anesthetic, most patients report only a small amount of discomfort.
  • The doctor will use the computerized imaging system to precisely guide the needle to the biopsy area where several small samples will be taken.
  • After the needle is removed, a sterile gauze bandage is placed on the skin to prevent bleeding. An ice pack
  • may also be applied. This procedure requires no stitches.
  • Before leaving the office, you’ll be given instructions for biopsy aftercare that are specific to your individual needs. Your breast should heal quickly, leaving almost no sign of the procedure.


This is typically a very safe procedure. However, as with all procedures where the skin is pierced, certain risks do exist and may include bruising, infection or hematoma (pooling of blood trapped inside the biopsy area). When one or more of these complications occur, they usually resolve within a brief period of time with the proper medical attention. While stereotactic breast biopsies are usually sufficient to determine the nature of a breast mass, at times a larger piece of tissue may need to be removed. In that case, another biopsy may be needed.

Patient Preparation

  • When you make your appointment:
    • Tell us what medications you take (including over-the-counter drugs like aspirin), vitamins (especially
      Vitamin E) or herbal preparations. Ask if and when you should stop taking them.
    • If you are allergic to a local anesthetic medication, let us know.
  • Avoid alcohol for at least 24 hours prior to your procedure.
  • On the day of your procedure:
    • Eat a light breakfast or lunch, limiting fluids.
    • Wear a two-piece outfit, if possible, since you’ll be asked to undress to the waist.
    • Wear or bring a comfortable bra that provides firm support.
    • Bathe but do not use deodorant, talcum powder, lotion, ointment or perfume. They can leave a residue on your skin that can affect the quality of the imaging process.
  • Just before your procedure, try to empty your bladder. You’ll be more comfortable on the table.


The tissue samples are sent to a pathologist who will look at them under a microscope and the results are usually known within two to four days. Please contact the physician who ordered the stereotactic biopsy if you have not heard of the results in four working days. Remember, 70% to 80% of all breast biopsies are benign and your breast abnormality presents no health risk.

More information.

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