Vacuum-Assisted Breast Biopsy

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Vacuum-assisted breast biopsy is a tissue sampling technique that uses a special instrument and imaging guidance to remove samples of breast tissue through a single, small skin incision. This technique allows the surgeon to remove more tissue through a single incision than is possible with a traditional core biopsy and is a much less invasive procedure than an open surgical biopsy. For these reasons, vacuum-assisted breast biopsy is becoming more common as a diagnostic tool in the management of breast lumps and abnormalities.

Different systems for performing the vacuum-assisted biopsy have been developed by different companies, but all involve the placement of a biopsy probe using radiology imaging studies for guidance. Mammograms taken from different angles (stereotactic mammography), ultrasound, and MRI have all been successfully used to identify the abnormal areas to be sampled by vacuum-assisted breast biopsy. Once the biopsy probe has been positioned, a vacuum pulls the breast tissue through an opening in the probe into the sampling chamber of the device. Then a rotating cutting device in the instrument removes the tissue sample, which is carried through the biopsy probe to a tissue collection receptacle.