Stereotactic Needle Biopsy

Author: Courtney Misher, MPH, BS R.T.(T)
Last Reviewed: September 21, 2022

A stereotactic needle biopsy, also called a stereotactic core needle biopsy, is a medical test to remove a piece of tissue from your body. The tissue is then tested to find out what it is. Imaging, such as a mammogram, x-ray, MRI, or CT is used during the biopsy to see where the mass or lesion is.

When is a stereotactic needle biopsy done?

Stereotactic needle biopsies are often used to biopsy these parts of the body:

  • Breast.
  • Brain.
  • Lung.
  • Liver.

Stereotactic biopsies use only small incisions, or cuts, in the skin. It is commonly used and leaves little to no scarring.

How do I prepare for a stereotactic needle biopsy?

Usually, there is no need to prepare for this test. However, if you are on blood thinners, you may need to stop them several days before the test. Tell your provider about all medications and herbal supplements you take.

How is this test done?

Stereotactic needle biopsies can be done as an outpatient procedure (you will not stay overnight) or inpatient procedure (you will stay overnight). This depends on the area of the body being biopsied. Here is what you can expect during the test:

  • You will be sitting or lying down depending on the area that it being biopsied.
  • Local anesthesia, such as lidocaine (numbing medicine), is used to numb the testing area. General anesthesia may be used depending on the area of the body being biopsied.
  • Imaging with a mammogram, x-ray, MRI, or CT scan will be used to find the mass.
  • Sometimes a small cut is made in the skin or a small hole is made in the skull before the biopsy needle is inserted.
  • The needle is put into the area being tested, and tissue is removed. This may be done a few times to make sure enough tissue is removed for testing.

The actual insertion of the needle takes only a few minutes and the whole procedure can take 30-60 minutes.

What should I expect after my stereotactic needle biopsy?

You may be asked to limit heavy activity for a day or two. Once the numbing medication wears off or when you wake up from the anesthesia, you may have some discomfort. You may also have bruising, swelling, or a small amount of bleeding at the site of the biopsy. If your biopsy was done in your brain, you may also have a mild headache.

In some cases, a pocket of blood, or a hematoma, will collect at the site of the biopsy. This can be uncomfortable but should get better over the next few days. If you have severe pain, you should call your provider right away.

How do I receive the results of my stereotactic needle biopsy?

The tissue sample is reviewed by a pathologist and a report is written. The report will give your provider information about normal and not normal findings. Your provider will discuss your results with you.


Bassett, L., Winchester, D. P., Caplan, R. B., Dershaw, D. D., Dowlatshahi, K., Evans III, W. P., ... & Zinninger, M. (1997). Stereotactic core‐needle biopsy of the breast: A report of the Joint Task Force of the American College of Radiology, American College of Surgeons, and College of American Pathologists. The Breast Journal, 3(6), 317-330.

Burger, P. C., & Nelson, J. S. (1997). Stereotactic brain biopsies. Archives of pathology & laboratory medicine, 121(5), 477.

Core needle biopsy of the breast: Stereotactic breast biopsy. American Cancer Society. (2022, January 14). Retrieved September 19, 2022, from

Stereotactic brain biopsy. AANS. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2022, from


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