The History of Biopsy

The History of Biopsy

The History of Biopsy


Biopsy refers to a medical procedure, a test in which cells and tissue from a particular region of the body are extracted for pathological examination. We are sure that is all 90% of you know about biopsies. However, there is an abundance of facts that you should be familiar with, and we are not talking about procedural details! For example, how much do you know about the history of biopsy, or the impact of biopsy as a technique? Even if your knowledge about the subject is scant, don’t be too much worried! In this discussion, we are going to talk about the biopsy, its history, and other aspects in some detail! Are you interested in learning about all of that? If yes, then stick with us till the very end of this discussion!

History of Biopsy

Characterization of biopsied material is not a practice that was invented or discovered in recent times. But before we reveal the first-ever biopsy, we would like to talk a bit about the etymology of the word. What does biopsy even mean? Any guesses? Well, it is a combination of two Greek words. Bios refer to life while optic refers to sight. The term was coined by Ernest Besnier in the year 1879. But as we have mentioned already, biopsies were carried out before the actual term was coined as well. Abulcasis, an Arab physician is credited for carrying out one of the earliest diagnostic biopsies in the eleventh century! Yeap that is how old the biopsies actually are!

The Why Question

Now, why would anyone need a biopsy in the first place? Pathological examination is a broad term, we are going to be much more specific in this section. Suspicion of cancer, for example, is one of the reasons why biopsies are carried out. The excised specimen from a patient can reveal a lot about the presence of tumor, and metastasis and can help in the staging of carcinoma. But cancer is not the only reason why biopsies are recommended. A biopsy can help in the pathological evaluation of kidney diseases, infections, inflammatory diseases, and certain metabolic conditions like Amyloidosis. For fertility evaluation, testicular biopsies are requested as well.

What are Some of the Biopsy Types?

You know about the history and the indications, it is time for types. The first in this list is an image-guided biopsy. You might have heard about this one, a needle is guided to the place of the tumor with the help of an imaging technique like ultrasound or CT scan. Then, there is the fine-needle aspiration biopsy. This is a minimally invasive biopsy technique, a doctor collects tissue through a hollow needle attached to a syringe. When a larger needle is used for tissue collection, it is called core needle biopsy. Other major types of biopsy include shave biopsy, punch biopsy, and endoscopic biopsy. We wish we could talk about these in detail, but we still have to discuss the impact of this technique, as well as the latest advancements.


At this point in the discussion, we know that your mind is all intrigued about the biopsied material. How is it evaluated? Well, the extracted tissues and samples are forwarded to a pathology lab. There, the pathologist can study the specimen in detail under the microscope. There are several different types of staining procedures involved as well, but we don’t want to go into their details right now. It will only complicate what has been very understandable for all discussions so far. Now, once the pathologist has confirmed the presence or absence of any abnormality, he or she prepares a report which is then sent back to the physician who performed the biopsy in the first place.

What is the Procedure for Biopsy

Impact of Biopsy As a Technique

Biopsies are super helpful, not only in the diagnosis of leukemias and lymphomas but in their staging as well. For this purpose, a specimen from the bone marrow is extracted. However, the impact of biopsy in staging all types of cancer is equal. Take the example of breast cancer where fine needle aspirate biopsies are dead helpful in diagnosing cancer, same goes for biopsies of lung. The best example to cite an infectious disease in this discussion would be that of hepatitis. One can determine the response to a particular therapy accurately by performing a biopsy. So, it is just not the carcinomas in which the impact of biopsy as a technique is clearly visible.

Future of Biopsy

Solid tissue biopsies have been diagnostic labs a solid for a long time, but the same cannot be said about liquid biopsies, although the progress over the years is finally starting to leave its impact. Where we are right now is a situation in which efforts are being made to introduce liquid biopsies in a clinical oncologist’s office. The latest developments in this area of testing have made it possible to analyze a greater than-ever number of tumors circulating in the blood, all courtesy of the biomarkers! This bit about the latest developments is important since it allows one to characterize tumors in as minimally invasive way as possible. The biggest challenge in this regard is the variable response of biochemical markers in different testing facilities. Hence, the need to standardize the liquid biopsy evaluation methods is greater than ever. Well, efforts are being made even as we speak, so we can safely say that the future looks bright!

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Conclusion – The History of Biopsy

Well, folks, that would be all for now from this discussion. We wish we could talk about the nitty-gritty of the technique, but the limitations of time and space force us to curtail this discussion here. In case you have some spare time on your hands, and the topic sounds intriguing to you, you should definitely read a bit more about the types of biopsies in detail. Anyhow, we are optimistic that there was a lot of new stuff for you to learn about in this discussion as well, and on this optimistic note, we bid you farewell from this discussion!

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