A tongue biopsy is surgery to remove a piece of the tongue for examination under a microscope.
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.
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
- Tongue (oral) cancer
What the risks are
Note: Complications are rare.
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.
Reviewed By: James L. Demetroulakos, MD, FACS, Department of Otolaryngology, North Shore Medical Center, Salem, MA. Clinical Instructor in Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.