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Lymph Node Biopsy

The lymph nodes are small organs that exist all over your body. Most people are especially familiar with the lymph nodes located on each side of their neck, which are often checked to see whether or not the lymph nodes are swollen. Swollen lymph nodes are a sign of an infection within the body.

Because the lymph nodes are a natural part of your immune system that are used to detect diseases within the body, they can be very useful to physicians that are trying to properly diagnose a serious illness such as an immune disorder or cancer.

Swelling of the lymph nodes is very common, and usually dissipates as the body naturally works to fight off whatever disease is present. However, persistently swollen lymph nodes can be a sign of something more serious, which is what often calls for a lymph node biopsy.

Types of Lymph Node Biopsy

There are actually several ways in which John Polhill Jr, MD can examine a patient’s lymph nodes via a biopsy. These variations include:

Needle biopsy

During a needle biopsy, a small portion of the swollen lymph node is removed with a thin needle. This procedure is very quick, taking only 10-15 minutes in total. It is also fairly painless, but you may be given a small amount of numbing cream to ease any possible discomfort.

Sentinel biopsy

Sentinel biopsies are especially helpful for patients who have already been diagnosed with cancer. This type of biopsy can help determine how far the cancer has spread by utilizing a dye (called a tracer) that penetrates the sentinel nodes, which are the first to be affected by a cancerous tumor. Once identified, this particular kind of lymph node is removed and sent to a lab for further testing.

Open biopsy

This kind of biopsy is a bit more invasive, as the attending physician will need to make a small cut in order to remove some or all of the lymph node. After the node is retrieved, the site will be stitched closed. This whole process takes about half an hour, and often requires a numbing agent or anesthesia in order to keep the patient comfortable.

Risks and Recovery

Lymph node biopsies are simple procedures, and so they are rarely associated with any serious risks or side effects. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms after your biopsy you should contact your doctor right away:

  • Intense pain
  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Bleeding or other discharge from the biopsy site

Recovery from a lymph node biopsy is also quite minimal, especially if it was a non-invasive type such as a needle biopsy. An open biopsy will require a couple weeks for the incision site to heal completely, and patients are advised to avoid strenuous activity during this period of time.

Depending upon the results of each individual biopsy, there may or may not be a need for further treatment or testing. This will of course be determined by the test’s findings and John Polhill Jr, MD’s professional opinion of the best method of treatment moving forward.