A stereotactic brain biopsy is a diagnostic technique used to acquire samples of brain tissue. This test can be helpful in determining the presence of a tumor, infection, vascular abnormality, or cancerous cells. This minimally invasive procedure uses advanced technology including MRI or CT scans and three-dimensional computer imaging, to safely and precisely reach a specific area of the brain. 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 in a portion of the brain that is difficult and dangerous to access. It is also recommended for patients who do not tolerate anesthesia as only sedation is necessary.
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. A CT scan 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 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 is then sent to a pathology laboratory for examination. The results of the stereotactic brain biopsy are usually available in a few days.
Recovery from Stereotactic Brain Biopsy
There is minimal downtime associated with a stereotactic brain biopsy. Patients may be monitored for a few hours after the procedure. 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 individuals may 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 carry some form of risk. Risks of a stereotactic brain biopsy may include:
- Bleeding in the brain
If the results of the stereotactic brain biopsy are inconclusive, a repeat biopsy may need to be performed.