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Surgical Tissue Biopsy Test

Last updated May 10, 2019

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

A Surgical Tissue Biopsy Test is a procedure whereby a surgeon cuts out a sample of body tissue, often for further investigation by a pathologist.

What are the other Names for this Test? (Equivalent Terms)

  • Complete Surgical Excisional Biopsy Test
  • Incisional Biopsy Test
  • Tissue Core Biopsy Test

What is the Surgical Tissue Biopsy Test? (Background Information)

  • A Surgical Tissue Biopsy Test is a procedure whereby a surgeon cuts out a sample of body tissue, often for further investigation by a pathologist. It is performed following physical examinations and imaging tests that reveal masses suspected of being tumors
  • There are two types of surgical biopsies:

    • Incisional biopsies: It is the removal of a piece of suspected tissue and not the entire tissue mass. The sample is then probed by a pathologist to determine whether it is cancerous or benign (harmless)
    • Excisional biopsies: It is the removal of the entire suspected tissue mass. They are performed on small masses such as breast lumps and enlarged lymph nodes      
  • The sample obtained using a Surgical Tissue Biopsy Test is treated with preservatives, dyes, and other chemicals, to prepare it for examination by a pathologist. Different chemicals may be used depending on the sample origin and the suspected disease/condition
  • The prepared sample is then examined by a pathologist under a microscope. The pathologist looks for signature features that point to a diagnosis. These include abnormal cell size and number; the presence of cells, such as white blood cells, which should not be present; and distortions in the architecture of the tissue

What are the Clinical Indications for performing the Surgical Tissue Biopsy Test?

Following are the clinical indications for performing the Surgical Tissue Biopsy Test:

  • Any abnormal tissue that needs to be studied, to exclude malignancy
  • Inability to perform other types of biopsies, or biopsy results that are inconclusive
  • Breast lump
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Following up to a suspicious imaging test

How is the Specimen Collected for Surgical Tissue Biopsy Test?

Following is the specimen collection process for Surgical Tissue Biopsy Test:

Sample required: Tissue (from the suspected site)


  • Cutting into the skin, often using a scalpel, to access a suspicious mass
  • In case of a needle biopsy, the needle is inserted into the suspicious area to obtain tissue for diagnostic purposes

Preparation required: Depending on the type of procedure, the surgeon may advise on the preparation needed prior to the test.

What is the Significance of the Surgical Tissue Biopsy Test Result?

  • Pathological analysis of a sample obtained using the Surgical Tissue Biopsy Test may reveal, if the tumor is cancerous or benign

The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results, based on the overall clinical scenario.

Additional and Relevant Useful Information:

  • Other biopsy test types include bone marrow biopsy, endoscopic biopsy, needle biopsy, and skin biopsy

Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider of the complete list of medications (including any herbal supplements) you are currently taking. This will help the healthcare provider interpret your test results more accurately and avoid unnecessary chances of a misdiagnosis.

The following DoveMed website links provide more information on various tissue biopsy procedures:







Please visit our Laboratory Procedures Center for more physician-approved health information:


References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Sept. 13, 2015
Last updated: May 10, 2019