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Prostate Biopsy

Overview :

The prostate gland is one of the three male sex glands and lies just below the urinary bladder, in the area behind the penis and in front of the rectum. It secretes semen, the liquid portion of the ejaculate. The urethra carries the urine from the urinary bladder and the semen from the sex glands to the outside of the body.

Prostate biopsies can be performed in three different ways. They can be performed by inserting a needle through the perineum (the area between the base of the penis and the rectum), by inserting a needle through the wall of the rectum, or by cytoscopy. Before the procedure is performed, the patient may be given a sedative to help him relax. Patients undergoing cytoscopy may be given either general anesthesia or local anesthesia. The doctor will ask the patient to have an enema before carrying out the biopsy. The patient is also given antibiotics to prevent any possible infection.

Needle biopsy via the perineum

The patient lies either on one side or on his back with his knees up. The skin of the perineum is thoroughly cleansed with an iodine solution. A local anesthetic is injected at the site where the biopsy is performed. Once the area is numb, the doctor makes a small (1 in) incision in the perineum. The doctor places one finger in the rectum to guide the placement of the needle. The needle is then inserted into the prostate, a small amount of tissue is collected, and the needle is withdrawn. The needle is then re-inserted into another part of the prostate. Tissue may be taken from several areas. Pressure is then applied at the biopsy site to stop the bleeding. The procedure generally takes 15-30 minutes and is usually done in a physician's office or in a hospital operating room. Although it sounds painful, it typically causes only slight discomfort.

Needle biopsy via the rectum

This procedure is also done in the physician's office or in the hospital operating room, and is usually done without any anesthetic, although some doctors prefer to inject a local anesthetic, usually lidocaine. The patient is asked to lie on his side or on his back with his legs in stirrups. The doctor attaches a curved needle guide to his finger and then inserts the finger into the rectum. After firmly placing the needle guide in the rectum, the biopsy needle is pushed along the guide, through the wall of the rectum and into the prostate. The needle is rotated gently, prostate tissue samples are collected and the needle withdrawn. When an ultrasound probe is used to guide the needle, the procedure is called a transrectal ultrasound-guided biopsy, or TRUS.


For this procedure, the patient is given either a general or a local anesthetic. An instrument called a cytoscope (a thin-lighted tube with telescopic lenses) is passed through the urethra. By looking through the cytoscope, the doctor can see if there is any blockage in the urethra and remove it. Tissue samples from the urinary bladder or the prostate can be collected for microscopic examination.

This test is generally performed in an operating room or in a physician's office. An hour before the procedure, the patient is given a sedative to help him relax. An intravenous (IV) line will be placed in a vein in the arm to give medications and fluids if necessary. The patient is asked to lie on a special table with his knees apart and stirrups are used to support his feet and thighs. The genital area is cleansed with an antiseptic solution. If general anesthesia is being used, the patient is given the medication through the IV tube or inhaled gases or both. If a local anesthetic is being used, the anesthetic solution is gently instilled into the urethra.

After the area is numb, a cytoscope is inserted into the urethra and slowly pushed into the prostate. Tiny forceps or scissors are inserted through the cytoscope to collect small pieces of tissue that are used for biopsy. The cytoscope is then withdrawn. The entire procedure may take 30-45 minutes. Sometimes a catheter (tube) is left in the urinary bladder to help the urine drain out, until the swelling in the urethra has subsided.

Alternate procedures

Many different tests can be performed to diagnose prostate diseases and cancer. A routine screening test called digital rectal examination (DRE) can identify any lumps or abnormality with the prostate. Blood tests that measure the levels of certain protein markers, such as PSA, can indicate the presence of prostate cancer cells. X rays and other imaging techniques (such as computed tomography scans, magnetic resonance imaging, and ultrasonograms), where detailed pictures of areas inside the body are put together by a computer, can also be used to determine the extent and spread of the disease. However, a prostate biopsy and examination of the cells under a microscope remains the most definitive test for diagnosing and grading prostate cancer.

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