A heart biopsy is used to obtain a sample of your heart muscle so it can be evaluated at a microscopic level. Heart biopsies are used for a variety of clinical reasons, including determining if your heart muscle has been infiltrated by a virus or other biologic substances like iron or amyloid (an abnormal protein). Heart biopsies are also used to screen for signs of rejection after a heart transplant.
What Is a Heart Biopsy?
A heart biopsy takes small pieces of tissue from the heart muscle for microscopic examination. Once your physician has examined the extracted heart tissue, he or she can determine if changes are necessary in your medical therapy.
Your heart biopsy will be done in the cardiac catheterization lab. A cardiologist performs the procedure with the assistance of a technician and a nurse. Once the procedure begins, you will lie down on a table and your chest will be connected to wires that will monitor your heart rhythm.
Your head, neck and chest will be draped with sterile paper sheets, and the physician will clean and numb the selected area. In general, your jugular vein on the right side of your neck will be used. Once the area is numb, a catheter is inserted into the vein. An instrument with small operable jaws called a bioptome is inserted through the catheter and threaded into your heart with the assistance of a continuous X-ray picture. The bioptome secures a piece of tissue and is removed by the cardiologist. Once the heart tissue has been extracted, it is sent to the laboratory for testing.
What to Expect During Your Heart Biopsy
Preparing for Your Procedure
You might be asked to change into a hospital gown before your heart biopsy. Do not eat or drink anything for at least six hours prior to your heart biopsy. Check with your physician to determine if any of your medications should be avoided for the days leading up to your scheduled test. Make sure to bring all of your medications, as well as any herbal or dietary supplements and over-the-counter medications, to the test with you.
During Your Procedure
It is important to remain completely still while the procedure is performed. You may feel a few extra beats of your heart when the tissue is removed. It is also possible that you feel faint, hot, flushed or thirsty. Let the physician or nurse know immediately if you experience any of these sensations.
After Your Procedure
Once the procedure is complete, the catheters are removed and pressure is held on the site to slow down the bleeding. Ointment and a bandage will be placed on the site. The nurse will take your vital signs and instruct you to remain in a semi-upright sitting position for at least one hour after the procedure. If this is an outpatient procedure for you, check with the nurse for how long you should stay in the waiting room prior to going home.
Make sure to avoid any heavy lifting and to keep the bandage on the site for 24 hours. Gently place your hand over the site to support it if you are going to cough or sneeze. If the site starts to bleed, hold pressure on it for at least ten minutes. Seek medical attention immediately if the bleeding fails to stop.
Your physician will be in touch as soon as your biopsy results are available.
Ohio State’s Ross Heart Hospital
To schedule your appointment, please call 614-293-ROSS or 888-293-ROSS.