Lymph Node Biopsy

What is a lymph node biopsy?

A lymph node biopsy removes lymph node tissue to be looked at under a microscope for signs of infection or a disease. Lymph nodes are part of the immune system. They are found all over the body, but the lymph nodes in the neck, behind the ears, in the armpits, and groin are typically the easiest to feel when they become enlarged or become tender. Swollen lymph nodes usually mean an infection, but the swelling can also be caused by cut, scratch, insect bite, a drug reaction, and some kinds of tumors. Because it is so common for lymph nodes to become larger in response to a local infection or trauma, the vast majority of lymph nodes require no special attention. However lymph nodes that rapidly increases in size or are associated with tenderness, fever, weight loss, redness, or those, which remain persistently larger than surrounding nodes may benefit from a biopsy.

How is a lymph node biopsied?

A lymph node may be sampled with a needle (in some cases) under light sedation, or under greater sedation or anesthesia through an open biopsy. With an open (surgical) biopsy, the surgeon will make a small cut in the skin and remove all or part of a lymph node. If more than one lymph node is taken, the biopsy is called a lymph node dissection. Open biopsy and lymph node dissection lets your doctor take a bigger sample and allow not only the cells but also the arrangement of cells within the lymph node to be studied. The lymph node sample will be looked at under a microscope by a specially trained doctor (pathologist).

What will happen in the hospital?

Most often, a lymph node biopsy does not require a hospitalization. It is usually considered an outpatient surgery.

When will my child be discharged?

Your child will be discharged the same day after the procedure is completed in the recovery room, when they have woken up from the anesthesia given during the procedure.

What will be my child's recovery?

Most often, children can resume normal activities the next day. They may be slightly tender to the area of where the biopsy was done, but more than likely able to resume normal activities unless otherwise instructed. Post-procedure pain can be managed with some over the counter medications, or prescription medications if the pain is more severe.  Some patients may be instructed to take antibiotics as well. If a lymph node abscess is drained, arrangements will be made for daily wound packing changes, if the clinic or a home with nursing services.

What should I be looking out for after the procedure?

The biopsy site may be sore for a few days after the test. After an open biopsy, the pain is mild and you can easily control it with an over-the-counter pain medication such as Tylenol or Motrin. You may also notice some bruising or fluid leaking for a few days. The wound should heal in 10 - 14 days. During this time, avoid any type of intense exercise or heavy lifting. Other things to be aware of at the biopsy site include:
  • Bleeding 
  • Infection (in some rare cases, the wound may become infected and you may need to take antibiotics if warranted). 
  • Nerve injury if the biopsy is done on a lymph node close to nerves (the numbness usually goes away in a few months).
Follow up in the pediatric surgery clinic may be suggested within 1-2 weeks if warranted. Please call 203-785-2701 to schedule your appointment.