Children's Health and Wellness

Endometrial Biopsy

What is an endometrial biopsy?

Your health care provider can do an endometrial biopsy to take a small tissue sample from the lining of the uterus (endometrium) for study. The endometrial tissue is viewed under a microscope to look for abnormal cells. Your health care provider can also check the effects of hormones on the endometrium.

Why might I need an endometrial biopsy?

Your health care provider may suggest an endometrial biopsy if you have:

  • Abnormal menstrual bleeding
  • Bleeding after menopause
  • Absence of uterine bleeding

Biopsy results may show cell changes linked to hormone levels, or abnormal tissues, such as fibroids or polyps. These can lead to abnormal bleeding. Your provider can also use endometrial biopsy to check for uterine infections, such as endometritis.

Your provider may also use an endometrial biopsy to check the effects of hormone therapy or to find abnormal cells or cancer. Endometrial cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive organs. Endometrial biopsy is no longer advised as a routine part of testing and treatment of infertility (not able to get pregnant).  

Your health care provider may have other reasons to do an endometrial biopsy.

What are the risks of an endometrial biopsy?

Some possible complications may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Pelvic infection
  • Puncture of the uterine wall with the biopsy device, which is rare

If you are allergic to or sensitive to medicines, iodine, or latex tell your health care provider.

If you are pregnant or think you could be, tell your health care provider. Endometrial biopsy during pregnancy may lead to miscarriage.

There may be other risks based on your condition. Be sure to talk about any concerns with your health care provider before the procedure.

Certain things may interfere with an endometrial biopsy including:

  • Vaginal or cervical infections
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Cervical cancer

How do I get ready for an endometrial biopsy?

  • Your health care provider will explain the procedure and you can ask questions.
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form that gives your permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully and ask questions if something is not clear.
  • Generally, you won’t need to do any preparation before the procedure. However, your health care provider may advise you to take a pain reliever 30 minutes before the procedure.
  • If you are pregnant or think you could be, tell your health care provider.
  • Tell your health care provider if you are sensitive to or are allergic to any medicines, iodine, latex, tape, or anesthesia.
  • Tell your health care provider of all medicines (prescription and over-the-counter) and herbal supplements that you are taking.
  • Tell your health care provider if you have a history of bleeding disorders or if you are taking any blood-thinning medicines (anticoagulants), aspirin, or other medicines that affect blood clotting. You may be told to stop these medicines before the procedure.
  • Your health care provider may ask you to keep a record of your menstrual cycles. You may need to schedule the procedure for a specific time of your cycle.
  • If your provider gives you a sedative before the procedure, you will need someone to drive you home afterwards.
  • You may want to bring a sanitary napkin to wear home after the procedure.
  • Based on your condition, your health care provider may call for other preparation.

What happens during an endometrial biopsy?

An endometrial biopsy may be done in a health care provider's office, on an outpatient basis, or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary based on your condition and your health care provider’s practices.

Generally, an endometrial biopsy follows this process:

  • You will be asked to undress fully or from the waist down and put on a hospital gown.
  • You will be told to empty your bladder before the procedure.
  • You will lie on an exam table, with your feet and legs supported as for a pelvic exam.
  • Your health care provider will insert an instrument called a speculum into your vagina to spread the walls of the vagina apart to view the cervix.
  • Your provider will clean your cervix with an antiseptic solution.
  • Your provider may numb the area using a small needle to inject medicine, or he or she may apply a numbing spray to your cervix.
  • A type of forceps may be used to hold the cervix steady for the biopsy. You may feel some cramping when it is applied.
  • Your provider may insert a thin, rod-like instrument, called a uterine sound, through the cervical opening to find the length of the uterus and location for biopsy. This may cause some cramping. The sound will then be removed.
  • Your provider will insert a thin tube, called a catheter, through the cervical opening into the uterus. The catheter has a smaller tube inside it. The health care provider will withdraw the inner tube creating suction at the end of the catheter. The health care provider will then gently rotate and move the tip of the catheter in and out to collect small pieces of endometrial tissue. This may cause some cramping.
  • The amount and location of tissue removed depends on the reason for the endometrial biopsy.
  • Your provider will remove the catheter and speculum. He or she will place the in a preservative and send it to a lab for study.
  • What happens after an endometrial biopsy?

    After the procedure, you may rest for a few minutes before going home. If you had any type of sedative, you will need someone to drive you home.

    You may want to wear a sanitary pad for bleeding. It is normal to have some mild cramping and spotting or vaginal bleeding for a few days after the procedure. Take a pain reliever as advised by your health care provider. Aspirin or certain other pain medicines may increase the chance of bleeding. Be sure to take only recommended medicines.

    Don’t douche, use tampons, or have sex for 2 to 3 days after an endometrial biopsy, or for a time recommended by your health care provider.

    You may also have other limits on your activity, including no strenuous activity or heavy lifting.

    You may go back to your normal diet unless your health care provider tells you otherwise.

    Your health care provider will tell you when to return for further treatment or care.

    Tell your health care provider if you have any of the following:

    • Excessive bleeding, or bleeding longer than 2 days after the procedure
    • Foul-smelling drainage from your vagina
    • Fever or chills
    • Severe lower abdominal pain

    Your health care provider may give you other instructions after the procedure, based on your situation.

    Next steps

    Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:

    • The name of the test or procedure
    • The reason you are having the test or procedure
    • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
    • When and where you are to have the test or procedure and who will do it
    • When and how will you get the results
    How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure
    Print Source: Endometrial biopsy. Zuber, Thomas J. American Family Physician. 2001, 63;6:1131-5.
    Online Source: National Cancer Institutehttp://training.seer.cancer.gov/anatomy/reproductive/female/tract.html
    Online Source: American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathologyhttp://www.asccp.org/Portals/9/docs/pdfs/Patient_Education/Endometrial_Biopsy_and_Cervical_Dilation.pdf
    Online Source: Physiology of the normal menstrual cycle, Endometrial sampling procedures, Up To Datehttp://www.uptodate.com
    Online Source: American Society for Reproductive Medicinehttps://www.asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/News_and_Publications/Practice_Guidelines/Committee_Opinions/optimal_evaluation_of_the_infertile_female.pdf
    Online Editor: Metzger, Geri K.
    Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
    Online Medical Reviewer: Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA
    Date Last Reviewed: 2/12/2014
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