Nerve Biopsy (2010)

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1. About the Test
2. Your Prepa­ra­tion
3. Dur­ing your Biopsy
4. After your Biopsy
5. Pos­si­ble Side-​Effects
6. When and how will you receive the results of your biopsy?
7. Addi­tional Resources & Information


What is a nerve biopsy?
Nerve biopsy is a minor sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure done with a local anes­thetic to numb the area. A piece of nerve is removed through a small cut (inci­sion) in your skin. This is often done in the back of your leg just below the knee crease. The nerve sam­ple is then exam­ined for a diag­no­sis. A small piece of nearby mus­cle may also be removed and examined.

Why do you need nerve biopsy?

• To deter­mine what is wrong.
• To deter­mine what type of nerve dam­age you have.
• To iden­tify other causes of nerve pain. These can include dam­age, swelling, or dis­ease to the sur­round­ing ner­vous system.

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How do you pre­pare for this test?

Tell your doc­tor if you are tak­ing a med­ica­tion that causes pro­longed bleed­ing. These med­ica­tions include Entro­phen (aspirin), Plavix, Aggrenox, and Coumadin. These should be stopped before the biopsy. You must speak with your doc­tor before the test to know if it is safe to stop these pills and he/​she will instruct you on how to adjust these med­ica­tions.
• You can eat break­fast and take med­ica­tions (exclud­ing the ones men­tioned above).
• Please bring a list of your med­ica­tions.
• You will receive a mild seda­tive before your biopsy. This means you will not be able to drive home. Please make arrange­ments to have some­one come with you or pick you up after your biopsy. If this is not arranged, your pro­ce­dure will be cancelled.

What hap­pens before the biopsy?

• A nurse will ask you some basic ques­tions about your health. She will also describe how the biopsy is done.
• A mild seda­tive is often given before the biopsy to help you relax.

You will be taken to the oper­at­ing room (OR) when the OR staff is ready. This is where your biopsy will be done.

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What hap­pens dur­ing your biopsy?

• A local anes­thetic is used to numb the biopsy site.
• A small cut (inci­sion) is then made in the skin. The sam­ple, or biopsy, is removed through this cut. If you are hav­ing a mus­cle biopsy, a mus­cle sam­ple will also be taken.
• When the nerve is cut you will feel an elec­tric shock. The dis­com­fort is brief.
• To help the wound heal, the edges of the cut are held together by a thread (stitches). Or by using a spe­cial tape (steri-​strips). The site is then cov­ered with a bandage.

How long will your pro­ce­dure take?
Nor­mally, it takes 45 minutes.

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• You will rest in the Neuro Day Cen­tre for about one hour after your biopsy. You will then be dis­charged to go home.
• You should limit your walk­ing for the first 48 hours.
• Your wound will heal within a week. Do not change your ban­dage dur­ing this time. And keep your ban­dage dry.
• Wrap your ban­dage in plas­tic before show­er­ing.
• After one week your ban­dage will be removed. Your wound will be exam­ined and stitches will be removed. This will be done at your local CLSC.

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Per­ma­nent numb­ness on the out­side of your ankle and some­times on the out­side of your foot. This is because the nerve has been cut. This will not affect your bal­ance or your abil­ity to walk.
Shock-​like pain in your lower leg dur­ing the heal­ing phase. This may be related to cer­tain move­ments. This pain is com­mon after a nerve biopsy. Tylenol may be taken as instructed. Con­tact your doc­tor for med­ica­tion if the pain is very uncom­fort­able. As the nerve heals the pain will go away.
Bruis­ing. This will go away after a few days.
An aller­gic reac­tion to the ban­dage. If you have an aller­gic reac­tion, you will feel itchy. You may also have red­ness around the ban­dage. A new ban­dage will need to be applied if this is the case. This may be done at the Neuro Day Cen­tre or at the CLSC.
Infec­tion. If you develop a fever, have ooz­ing from the ban­dage or have an increase in pain after a few days you may have an infec­tion. You must notify your doc­tor or con­tact the Neuro Day Cen­tre for instruc­tions. We are open Mon­day to Fri­day from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. (514 3981986).

Neu­ro­log­i­cal Day Cen­tre
Sec­ond floor, Room 238,
Mon­treal Neu­ro­log­i­cal Hos­pi­tal
Tele­phone: (514) 3981986

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A follow-​up appoint­ment is made with the doc­tor who did the test. Results may take up to six weeks.

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Infor­ma­tion about InfoNEURO
Neuro-​Patient Resource Cen­tre
Mon­treal Neu­ro­log­i­cal Hosp­tial Room 354
Tel: (514) 3985358
E-​mail: infoneuro@​muhc.​mcgill.​ca
Web site: http://​infoneuro​.mcgill​.ca/

This infor­ma­tion is for edu­ca­tional pur­poses only, and is not intended to replace the advice of a pro­fes­sional health­care prac­ti­tioner, or to sub­sti­tute for med­ical care.

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Reviewed and revised by Bar­bara Taugher, BSc(N), CNN©, Neu­ro­log­i­cal Day Cen­tre. Pro­duced by the Neuro-​Patient Resource Cen­tre, 2010.
Mon­treal Neu­ro­log­i­cal Hos­pi­tal.

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