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Who Performs Biopsies?

Medical Doctors (MD) or Doctors of Osteopathy (DO) usually perform biopsy. Biopsy is routinely performed both on an outpatient basis and an inpatient basis. For example, during an examination a dermatologist (doctor who deals with conditions of the skin) may perform a quick biopsy of a suspicious mole or mark on the skin, to determine if the region is malignant or benign.

Surgeons typically perform excisional (surgical) biopsy and open biopsy. Surgeons may also perform needle biopsy and other forms of biopsy such as large core biopsy. Large core biopsy (or ABBI: advances breast biopsy instrumentation) is a hybrid between core biopsy and excisional biopsy and is used to remove some breast lesions. Surgeons have special residency training and may also be board certified.

More involved percutaneous biopsy of such organs as the liver or lung is now being performed routinely under guidance of medical imaging such as CT imaging or ultrasound. Typically, a radiologist would perform these image guided biopsies. A radiologist is a medical professional (MD or DO) who has undertaken a special four year training program in radiology. After radiology residency training, a physician is eligible to become a "board-certified" radiologist by passing the examination given by the American Board of Radiology.

A pathologist analyses the biopsy specimen (tissue sample) once it has been removed. Pathologists are physicians who specialize in rendering medical diagnoses by examination of tissues and fluids removed from the body. To be a pathologist, a medical graduate (MD or DO) undertakes a three to five year residency training program in pathology. After residency training in pathology, the physician is eligible to become a "board-certified" pathologist by passing the examination given by the American Board of Pathology. Some pathologists may perform biopsies or may assist with a biopsy to observe or consult the other physician.

Updated: August 15, 2007