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Biopsy - biliary tract

A biliary tract biopsy is the removal of small amount of cells and fluids from the duodenum, bile ducts, pancreas, or pancreatic duct. he sample is examined under a microscope.

How the Test is Performed

Your doctor can take a sample for a biliary tract biopsy in different ways.

A needle biopsy can be done if you have a well-defined tumor.

  • The biopsy site is cleaned.
  • A thin needle is inserted into the area to be tested, and a sample of cells and fluid are removed.
  • The needle is then removed.
  • Pressure is put on the area to stop any bleeding. The site will be covered with a bandage.

If you have a narrowing or blockage of the bile or pancreatic ducts, a sample can be taken during procedures such as:

  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
  • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiogram (PTCA)

How to Prepare for the Test

You may not be able to eat or drink 8-12 hours or more before the test. Your health care provider will tell you ahead of time what you need to do.

Make sure you have someone to drive you home.

How the Test will Feel

How the test will feel depends on the type of procedure used to remove the biopsy sample. With a needle biopsy,  you may feel a sting as the needle is inserted. Some people feel a cramping or pinching feeling during the procedure.

Medicines that stop pain and help you relax are commonly used for other biliary tract biopsy methods.

Why the Test is Performed

A biliary tract biopsy can determine if a tumor started in the liver or spread from another location. It also can determine if the tumor is cancerous.

This test may be done:

  • After a doctor's examination, x-ray, MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound shows abnormal growths in your biliary tract
  • To test for diseases or infection

Normal Results

A normal result means there are no signs of cancer, disease, or infection in the biopsy sample.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may be due to:


Risks depend on how the biopsy sample was taken.

Risks may include:

  • Bleeding at the biopsy site
  • Infection

Alternative Names

Cytology analysis - biliary tract; Biliary tract biopsy


Afdahl NH. Diseases of the gall bladder and bile ducts In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds.Cecil Medicine

Stockland AH, Baron TH. Endoscopic and radiologic treatment of biliary disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds.Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease

Update Date 1/22/2013