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Wire localization biopsy

A wire localization biopsy is a procedure that uses a fine wire to mark the exact location of a lump or abnormality. It is done before a surgeon performs an excisional biopsy to remove the lump. This procedure may also be called wire localization, fine-wire localization or needle localization.

Why wire localization biopsy is done

Wire localization biopsy is most commonly used to locate lumps or abnormalities in the breast, though it may be used for other parts of the body as well. It is used to:

  • remove a lump that cannot be felt (non-palpable)
  • remove a small abnormal area that is hard for the surgeon to locate
  • remove a tissue sample if more than one abnormality can be seen on an x-ray
  • help the surgeon remove a small amount of normal tissue around the abnormality and avoid unnecessary deformity of the area

How wire localization biopsy is done

The first part of a wire localization biopsy is done in the x-ray department of a hospital.

  • An x-ray is used to help locate the area to be sampled.
  • A local anesthetic is often used to numb the area.
  • The radiologist places a special hollow needle into the suspicious area.
  • A thin wire with a small hook on the end is inserted through the centre of the needle. The needle is removed once the wire is in place.
  • The wire is often taped to the skin to prevent it from moving until the biopsy is done.

The second part of a wire localization biopsy is done in the operating room.

  • The x-ray and the wire help guide the surgeon to the tissue to be removed.
  • The lump is surgically removed and a sample of the tissue is sent to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope. The surgeon removes the wire at the same time.
  • An x-ray of the tissue that was removed (called a specimen x-ray) is taken to confirm that the abnormal tissue has been completely removed.

What the results mean

Biopsy samples are sent to the pathology lab. A pathologist (a doctor who specializes in the causes and nature of disease) will look at the cells in the tissue to see if they contain cancer. The pathology report indicates the characteristics and type of cells present and if cells are normal, non-cancerous or cancerous.

What happens if a change or abnormality is found

The doctor will decide whether further tests, procedures or treatment are needed.


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