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Techniques & Technologies

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Biopsy forceps.

Biopsy forceps.

Credits:Wellcome Photo Library, London

A biopsy is the removal of a tissue sample from the body for analysis under a microscope. This can be performed on living bodies for the purpose of diagnosis where other tests (such as blood and urine tests) have not been conclusive. It is usually perfomed using an anaesthetic. Examples include the removal of material from the breast or the skin to determine whether cancer is present. In the past, doctors have frequently used hollow needles to extract samples. The earliest example was described around the year 1000 by the famous medieval surgeon Al-Zahrawi, who used hollow needles to investigate abnormal growths of the thyroid gland. Since the nineteenth century, medical researchers and practitioners have developed many different kinds of instruments to perform biopsies on different body parts. Modern instruments such as intestinal biopsy tubes can extract samples from parts of the body which are not easily accessible.




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M Rosa, ’Fine-needle aspiration biopsy: A historical overview‘, Diagnostic Cytopathology, 36/11 (2008), pp 773-75

A Diamantis, E Magiorkinis and H Koutselini, ’Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy: historical aspects‘, Folia Histochemica et Cytobiologica, 47/2 (2009), pp 191-97