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Biopsy - Muscle

What is a muscle biopsy? 

A muscle biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of muscle is removed for testing in a laboratory. The test can help your doctor to see if you have an infection or disease in your muscles. It is performed by a surgical doctor. 

Why is a muscle biopsy performed? 

A muscle biopsy is performed if you are experiencing problems with your muscles and your doctor suspects an infection or disease could be the cause. The biopsy can help your doctor rule out a certain condition as a cause for your symptoms. It can also help them make a diagnosis and initiate a treatment plan. 

Your doctor may ask for a muscle biopsy if you have symptoms that may be related to the following:- 

  • defects in the way your muscles metabolize, or use energy 
  • diseases that affect blood vessels or connective tissue 
  • infections related to the muscles, such as trichinosis 
  • muscular disorders that lead to muscle weakness 


How to prepare for a muscle biopsy? 

You don’t need to do much to prepare for this procedure. Please tell your doctor about any prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and herbal supplements you are taking prior to the procedure. They will advise whether you should stop taking them before and during the test. 

If you are unable to attend for your biopsy appointment please let the hospital know as soon as possible (you can call the Jefferson ward booking team directly on 0151 556 3871). Failure to attend without proper notice wastes a theatre slot and will result in you being removed from the surgical waiting list. This could result in a significant delay to a diagnosis being made. 

What happens during a muscle biopsy? 

On the day of the biopsy, you will change into a hospital gown and be taken to an operating theatre where it is performed. The surgeon will mark the area where the muscle is to be sampled; it could be on the arms or legs, depending on your symptoms. He or she will use a small needle to give local anaesthetic that will numb the area where the muscle is taken; you will remain awake for the test. The skin and connective tissue is cut and a 1 cm3 piece of muscle is excised and the skin will then be closed with stitches. 

Recovering from a muscle biopsy 

You will be able to go home following the biopsy. You can eat and drink normally. You will have a small dressing and/or bandage over the biopsied area. You will experience a little pain as the local anaesthetic wears off. 

There is no restriction on driving after the procedure but we generally advise that someone else takes you home afterwards just in case there is undue discomfort in the affected limb that could compromise your ability to drive. Following the test, the area may be sore for a week. Book an appointment with your practice nurse (or local walk-in centre) for suture removal or just a wound check (if dissolvable sutures were used) 10 days after surgery. 

Risks of a muscle biopsy 

While muscle biopsy is considered to be a safe procedure, there are still risks involved, including a very small risk of bleeding or infection. Any bleeding is likely to be minor and any pain should settle within days, although occasionally patients may experience more prolonged discomfort, especially in the unlikely event of infection. Bruising is possible as well as scarring and delayed wound healing. Sometimes the tissue is not adequate to make a diagnosis, in such cases a repeat procedure may be required. 

After a muscle biopsy 

After the tissue sample is taken, it is sent to a laboratory for testing. It could take up to a few weeks for the results to be ready and sometimes more detailed analysis is required, which takes even longer. Once the results are back, your doctor may call you or have you come for a follow-up appointment to discuss the findings. If your results come back abnormal, your doctor may need to order more tests to confirm a diagnosis. They will discuss any treatment options. 

  • Last Updated:
    01 October 2023
  • Review Date:
    01 November 2026
  • Author:
    Ms M Lee, Dr J Holt, Ms McMahon
  • Summary:

    A muscle biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of muscle is removed for testing in a laboratory. 

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