A uterine biopsy, medically referred to as an endometrial biopsy, is a procedure performed by a doctor to collect tissue cell samples from the lining of the endometrium, or uterus. By collecting these tissue samples and then examining them under a microscope, a doctor can determine the source or cause of many uterine problems.
In most cases, the biopsy can be performed in a doctor’s office, or your doctor may schedule the procedure at a hospital or other medical facility. There are several ways a uterine biopsy can be attained, most of which will involve minimal discomfort and no anesthesia. One method, called a D&C, which stands for dilation and curettage, is done with general or local anesthesia. In all methods of tissue cell collection, an instrument is passed through the cervix and into the uterus for collection.
There are several reasons why a doctor may order a biopsy of the uterus. Common reasons are to diagnose heavy or uncontrollable uterine bleeding, uterine cancer or to further assess an abnormal pap test, and to determine causes of infertility. For example, a uterine biopsy can determine a condition known as endometrial hyperplasia, or overgrowth of the lining of the uterus, which is a common cause of infertility because the egg fails to attach to the uterine wall. The biopsy is sometimes performed in conjunction with a hysteroscopy, a procedure involving a lighted scope used to visually examine the lining of the uterus.
Prior to this procedure, your doctor will give you specific instructions to prepare for the test. A uterine biopsy is not performed on pregnant women, so you should tell your doctor if you are pregnant or think you could be.
The most common side effects reported during and after a uterine biopsy are mild to moderate cramping, discomfort, or pain, dizziness that goes away after the procedure is completed, and light bleeding. Side effects that should be reported to your doctor after this test include heavy or uncontrollable bleeding, fever, abdominal pain, and abnormal or a foul-smelling vaginal discharge. Your doctor will advise of you of any post-procedure instructions, such as avoiding the use of tampons or intercourse.
Once the tissue cells have been collected, they are sent to a lab for a pathologist to examine. Lab results can take anywhere from three to seven days. Your doctor will notify you of the results and will follow up with additional testing if necessary.