Unless we contact you directly about changes to your care/treatment, please attend your appointment at The Walton Centre as normal.

Stereotactic biopsy

What is a biopsy?

A biopsy is performed in patients with difficult to diagnose brain abnormalities and in some brain tumour patients. In patients with brain tumours a biopsy can help find out the tumour type. The sample is sent to the laboratory and examined under the microscope by the pathologist to find out the types of cells that are present. Before any procedure you will need to have a pre-operative examination. Here you will be asked questions about your general health and will have a physical examination. You will also have routine blood tests and possibly an electrocardiogram (ECG) and x-rays. Please bring a list of your medications with you.

Stereotactic biopsy

This is a biopsy guided by scans and a special frame which is placed on your head and attached with pins. You will be given local anaesthetic and a small amount of sedation for this. Most patients who have a stereotactic biopsy remain awake during the procedure. It does not take very long and this means you may be able to go home the same day. However a general anaesthetic is an option.

What are the risks?

There are some risks involved with any kind of brain surgery. Your Neurosurgeon will explain the risks involved with a stereotactic biopsy and ask you to sign a consent form. Please ensure you have asked as many questions as you want before completing this form.


Once the frame is attached you are taken for a CT scan. This is then used either by itself or sometimes along side your previous MRI scan to allow your neurosurgeon to plan where to take the biopsy from. Your neurosurgeon will then put more local anaesthetic into your scalp and make a small incision. A small hole will then be made in the skull. A thin needle is inserted into the brain using information gained from the scans. Samples are then taken and sent to the laboratory to be analysed , these results may take 5/7 working days. You will be taken back to the ward and kept in for a few hours for observation.


You will usually have one stitch to the incision in your scalp and this will be taken out after seven days by a district nurse. The ward nurses will refer you to a district nurse. You may have some fluid which leaks from the pin site of the frame, this is called serous fluid and is normal. It should stop leaking after 24-48 hours. Please keep this clean, if it starts to look infected (red, swollen) please contact you GP or specialist nurse. You may also have some swelling around the eyes which develops over 24-48 hours, again this is normal and should begin to settle down after 24 hours. Following your discharge you will be contacted the next day by the Clinical Nurse Specialist who will give you an appointment to see your Neurosurgeon for the results of the biopsy.

I am on anti-coagulant medication will I have to stop taking it?

You will be asked to stop taking your anti-coagulant medication as this can cause bleeding during surgery. This will be discussed with you by your Neurosurgeon during your pre-operative consultation.

Who will I be able to talk to during this time?

You will be able to access the Clinical Nurse Specialist before, during and after your admission to hospital. The Clinical Nurse Specialist provides you with support and advice regarding your procedure. You will also be able to discuss any problems with your Neurosurgeon.

What happens next?

The results of the biopsy will determine what happens next. Possible future treatment will be discussed with you when you receive the biopsy results. Some people find it helps to write down information they are given at the time. You will then have a follow up appointment in the appropriate clinic.


We have an active research programme which aims to help us improve our understanding of brain tumours. When the analysis has been completed there may be tissue left over, which we may be able to use for our research. Any research carried out is subject to the authorisation of a research ethics committee and any personal information is kept confidential. Your consultant or specialist nurse will discuss with you whether you would like any residual tissue to be made available for research. You will be asked to sign a consent form if you agree to the above, which your consultant or specialist nurse will sign with you. If you do not consent to research, the tissue samples will be kept by the Trust for medical records.

Contact details

  • Brain and spinal tumour Clinical Nurse Specialist team available Monday to Friday 9am-5pm
  • TEL: 0151 529 5648
  • Via bleep 0151 525 3611 Bleep 5370 / 5391
  • Email address
  • Out of hours and weekends please contact nurse in charge of the hospital on 0151 525 3611 Bleep 4556


  • Last Updated:
    01 December 2019
  • Review Date:
    01 December 2023
  • Author:
    Neuro-Oncology Team
  • Summary:

    Stereotactic biopsies - A guide for patients, relatives and carers

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