Lymph nodes are small organs located in different parts of your body. They are found near internal organs such as the armpits, the groin, neck, stomach, intestines, and lungs. Lymph nodes work with your immune system to detect and fight off infections. A lymph node may swell in response to an infection somewhere in your body. Swollen lymph nodes can appear as a lump underneath your skin.
During a routine medical exam, your doctor may find enlarged or swollen lymph nodes. Swollen lymph nodes that result from minor infections or insect bites typically don’t require medical attention. However, If your lymph nodes remain enlarged, your doctor may order a lymph node biopsy to look for evidence of an immune disorder, chronic infection, cancer, or a malignancy.
Types of Lymph Node Biopsies
A lymph node biopsy is an outpatient procedure that can take place at a hospital, in your doctor’s office, or in other medical facilities. A doctor can remove the entire lymph node or take a tissue sample from the swollen lymph node. Once the doctor removes the sample, they send it to a pathologist, who examines the lymph node or tissue sample under a microscope.
There are three ways to perform a lymph node biopsy.
A needle biopsy takes about 10 to 15 minutes. At the doctor’s office, your doctor will clean the biopsy site and apply numbing medication to the receptive area. Then, your doctor will insert a fine needle into your lymph node and remove a small sample of cells. They’ll then remove the needle and put a bandage on the site.
This procedure removes more than the needle biopsy and can take up to 30 – 45 minutes to complete. The open biopsy takes either a portion of your lymph node or the entire lymph node. Local anesthesia or general anesthesia is used during the procedure.
To perform the procedure, your physician will do the following:
make a small incision
remove the lymph node
suture the biopsy site
apply a bandage