Biopsy - tongue
A tongue biopsy is a minor surgery that is done to remove a small piece of the tongue. The tissue is then examined under a microscope.
A tongue biopsy can be done using a needle.
Some types of tongue biopsies remove a thin slice of tissue. Medicine to numb the area (local anesthetic) will be used. Others are done under general anesthesia, (allowing you to be asleep and pain-free) so that a larger area may be removed and examined.
You may be told not to eat or drink anything for several hours before the test.
Your tongue is very sensitive so a needle biopsy may be uncomfortable even when numbing medicine is used.
Your tongue can be tender or sore, and it may feel slightly swollen after the biopsy. You may have stitches or an open sore where the biopsy was done.
The test is done to find the cause of abnormal growths or suspicious-looking areas of the tongue.
The tongue tissue is normal when examined.
Abnormal results may mean:
Risks for this procedure include:
Complications from this procedure are rare.
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Ellis E, Huber MA. Principles of differential diagnosis and biopsy. In: Hupp JR, Ellis E, Tucker MR, eds. Contemporary Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 22.
Wenig BM. Neoplasms of the pharynx. In: Wenig BM, ed. Atlas of Head and Neck Pathology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016 chap 10.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 2/1/2021
Reviewed By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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