Biopsy 2012: Safety Should Reign Supreme

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By Michelle Beaver

When patients think of endoscopy, they usually think of tubes with cameras, and most often think of the dreaded colonoscopy. However, as endoscopy professionals know, biopsy is another vital part of endoscopy. Call it the unsung hero of the specialty. If it's done properly, patients can receive life-saving diagnosis and treatment.

Biopsy is a relatively simple but skillful (if done properly) way to diagnose ulcers, cancers, and polyps, and can be done under mild sedation.

Like any medical procedure, following best practices is mandatory. First and foremost, patient safety. Experts agree that a complete patient history should be taken prior to any endoscopic procedure in order to identify co-morbid conditions that may increase risk. According to Howard Abrams, MD, a gastroenterology specialist, in a 2009 EndoNurse article, "Best Biopsy Practices," patient safety includes getting identification of patients on anticoagulation or antiplatelet therapy who would require specific instruction on modifying their drug therapy to permit safe polypectomy.

“Polypectomy should not be undertaken in patients with uncorrected bleeding disorders," Abrams said. He also said the key to an efficient procedure is excellent communication with the endoscopy technician with clear instruction such as “open snare/close snare," “needle out/back."

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