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Tongue Biopsy

Definition

A tongue biopsy is surgery to remove a piece of the tongue for examination under a microscope.

Alternative Names

Biopsy - tongue

How the test is performed

A tongue biopsy can be done using a needle. After numbing the area, the health care provider gently sticks the needle into the tongue and removes a tiny piece of tissue.

Some types of tongue biopsies remove a thin slice of tissue. Others are done under general anesthesia (asleep and no pain) so that larger areas, such as lesion, growth, or other abnormal area of the tongue, may be removed and examined. See also: Surgical excision

How to prepare for the test

You may be told not to eat or drink anything for several hours before the test.

How the test will feel

A needle biopsy is often somewhat uncomfortable even with use of an anesthetic, because the tongue is quite sensitive. After the biopsy, the tongue can be tender or sore, and it may feel slightly swollen. There may be stitches or an open sore where the biopsy was done.

Why the test is performed

The test is done to determine the cause of abnormal growths, lesions, or suspicious-appearing areas of the tongue.

Normal Values

There is normal tongue tissue, with no abnormal inclusions or cellular changes.

Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What abnormal results mean

  • Amyloidosis
  • Tongue (oral) cancer

What the risks are

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Swelling of the tongue (can obstruct the airway and cause breathing difficulty)

Note: Complications are rare.

References

Robinson PN. Early diagnosis of oral cavity cancers. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. Apr 2006; 39(2): 295-306.

Noonan VL. Diagnosis and management of suspicious lesions of the oral cavity. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. Feb 2005; 38(1): 21-35, vii.

Review Date: 3/3/2009

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Information developed by A.D.A.M., Inc. regarding tests and test results may not directly correspond with information provided by UCSF Medical Center. Please discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.