A biopsy is a procedure where a very small sample of tissue is taken from your body, so it can be examined under a microscope. This means they can be used to help diagnose and monitor lots of different diseases.
Lots of tests are helpful in giving doctors an idea of what might be wrong with you, but biopsy samples are really useful because tissue and cells can be examined really closely, which means abnormalities can be seen and understood, even if they are not visible in other tests.
Biopsies and paediatric IBD
During your endoscopy, several biopsies will be taken from the lining of your digestive tract and your bowel. Samples will be taken from areas that look healthy, as well as areas that seem to be inflamed.
Your biopsies will be taken using a tiny set of tweezers, called biopsy forceps. They are on the end of a long thin tube, which is inserted through the endoscope tube that is attached to the camera. The biopsy forceps are controlled by the doctor carrying out the procedure, and used to take the tiny pinch samples of tissue.
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Do biopsies hurt?
Biopsies don’t hurt. And it’s not only because you are asleep when they are taken. The lining of your bowel is not sensitive to pain, only to the sensation of stretching. This is why it can feel uncomfortable when you are constipated, or full of gas!
The biopsy samples that are taken are very tiny, and so you will usually heal very quickly. Occasionally the wound might bleed a little, but the doctor can use a special tool during your endoscopy to help stop any bleeding if necessary.
What happens to my biopsies?
Biopsy samples that are taken to help diagnose and to monitor your disease will be placed into special containers which are sent to the pathology laboratory. A pathology laboratory (sometimes called path lab) is the place in a hospital where specimens and samples from patients are sent to be tested and examined, using special equipment.
Your biopsy samples are cut into very thin slices so a pathologist can examine them under a microscope. A pathologist is a doctor with special training in detecting, diagnosing and monitoring diseases by examining cell and tissue samples. Working together, the pathologist and members of your IBD team will discuss and decide upon your diagnosis, or a change to your treatment, and a final report will be made. This will then be passed on to you by your IBD team.
Sometimes, if you have agreed to take part in research studies, extra biopsies are taken during your endoscopy. These samples are placed into a special medium (liquid) and kept in the laboratory. They can then be used in lots of ways to help research into inflammatory bowel disease.