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A tongue biopsy is surgery to remove a piece of the tongue for examination under a microscope.
Biopsy - tongue
How the Test is Performed
A tongue biopsy can be done using a needle. After numbing the area, the health care provider gently sticks the needle into the tongue and removes a tiny piece of tissue.
Some types of tongue biopsies remove a thin slice of tissue. Others are done under general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free) so that larger areas may be removed and examined.
See also: Surgical excision
How to Prepare for the Test
You may be told not to eat or drink anything for several hours before the test.
How the Test Will Feel
A needle biopsy is often somewhat uncomfortable even with use of an anesthetic, because the tongue is quite sensitive. After the biopsy, the tongue can be tender or sore, and it may feel slightly swollen. There may be stitches or an open sore where the biopsy was done.
Why the Test is Performed
The test is done to determine the cause of abnormal growths or suspicious-looking areas of the tongue.
There is normal tongue tissue, with no abnormal changes.
What Abnormal Results Mean
- Tongue (oral) cancer
Note: Complications are rare.
Robinson PN. Early diagnosis of oral cavity cancers. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. Apr 2006; 39(2): 295-306.
Noonan VL. Diagnosis and management of suspicious lesions of the oral cavity. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. Feb 2005; 38(1): 21-35, vii.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.