Stereotactic Biopsy

What is a stereotactic biopsy?

A stereotactic biopsy is a common procedure that lets a neurosurgeon diagnose a brain lesion (or abnormality). Usually, a patient has gone to the doctor with symptoms that required images of the brain. These images may have shown lesions of uncertain causes. In order to recommend treatment, a doctor may need a brain biopsy to get a specimen that a pathologist can review for an official diagnosis.

What happens during a stereotactic biopsy?

Here are the details of the test:

  • The procedure takes place in the operating room. Before it starts, a frame is often placed around the patient's head. This involves numbing the skin and securing the frame with four pins
  • Imaging (a CT scan or MRI) is obtained
  • Once the location of the target lesion is determined (usually through coordinates), the patient receives light sedation
  • During the 30- to 60-minute procedure, a small incision (less than one-inch long) is made in the scalp, and a small hole (no larger than a nickel) is drilled into the skull
  • A thin and hollow needle or catheter, is inserted into the brain and directed into the lesion
  • A syringe is used to pull a small sample into the hollow needle so that it can be removed safely and sent to the pathologist

Often, the neurosurgeon will ask the pathologist to look at the specimen at the time of the procedure to confirm whether enough tissue was obtained for making a diagnosis.

Find a board-certified neurosurgeon for stereotactic biopsy

To find a skilled neurosurgeon near you, visit our Neurosurgery page or access our online physician directory.