Toggle site contrast Toggle Contract

Vacuum assisted biopsy

Read our guide below about a vacuum assisted biopsy (VAB)

You can also download a PDF version of this patient information by following the link on the right.

What is a vacuum assisted biopsy?

It’s a safe and simple method of getting a non-surgical diagnosis of breast lesions. You’ll have a local anaesthetic and a clinician will use ultrasound or x-ray guidance as well as a special device with suction to remove the tissue.

The clinician will make a skin incision to insert the biopsy needle and get some breast tissue for the pathologist to examine and make a diagnosis.

If you’re taking any medication to thin your blood (anticoagulant or antiplatelet therapy), this procedure may not be suitable for you. We may arrange to stop your medication for a few days before the biopsy.

Call us on 01494 323300 as soon as you get an appointment for a biopsy.

Do I need to do anything before the procedure?

Yes. You must tell us if you:

  • have any allergies, especially to medicines or metal
  • are having any treatment or take any medicine to thin your blood.

You can eat and drink normally.

Please bring a list of your medication with you and make sure you take any regular medication as usual.

You’ll find it better to wear a separate top with a skirt or trousers. After the procedure we recommend that you wear a non-wired supportive bra.

What happens during the procedure?

When you arrive, the clinician will explain the procedure to you and ask for your consent to go ahead. You may need to sit up or lie down. The clinician will use the x-ray machine or ultrasound to locate the area of breast tissue that needs removing.

You’ll have a local anaesthetic to numb the area. This may sting a little as it’s injected.

The clinician will use a needle attached to a suction device to take small amounts of breast tissue. They’ll continue until they’ve taken the required amount of tissue. The clinician uses ultrasound images or serial mammograms to monitor the process. The process should not be painful, but you may feel a pulling sensation.

At the end of the procedure, we may want to place a tiny titanium marker in the breast tissue to show from where the tissue has been taken. This will stay in your breast and you won’t be able to feel it. This marker will be seen on any future breast ultrasound scans or mammograms. If you need surgical excision of the area after analysis of the sample, this marker will be taken out with the breast tissue that’s removed.

The titanium marker is MRI compatible and won’t cause any problems if you ever need an MRI scan.

What happens at the end of the procedure?

A member of the team will press firmly over the area for 10 to 15 minutes to minimise any bruising. They’ll close the small cut with slim adhesive strips which you should leave on and keep dry for 2 to 3 days.

You’ll need to stay in the breast unit for 30 minutes after the dressing has been applied. This is to check before you go home that we’re happy there’s no bleeding at the procedure site.

What can I expect after the procedure?

Bruising is common after this procedure and may make your breast feel lumpy. Occasionally, there can be severe bruising which may affect most of the breast and take several weeks to resolve.

Occasionally the procedure site can start to bleed again after you’ve left the breast unit. If this happens, apply firm pressure over the area for 20 minutes.

You should contact the breast unit on 01494 323300, your GP or Accident and Emergency if the bleeding doesn’t stop. Take this leaflet with you so they know what procedure you’ve had.

Taking a painkiller such as paracetamol will help relieve any tenderness or pain.

Avoid taking aspirin or ibuprofen for the first 24 hours as they may increase any bruising and swelling. You should avoid heavy lifting or exercise for 48 hours to reduce
the risk of complications. Some people experience breast discomfort for several months after this procedure.

When will I get the result?

Before you leave the breast unit we’ll arrange an appointment for you to get the results, normally within 2 weeks of the procedure.

How can I help reduce healthcare associated infections?

Infection prevention and control is important to the wellbeing of our patients so we have procedures in place. Keeping your hands clean is an effective way of preventing the spread of infections.

You, and anyone visiting you, must use the hand sanitiser available at the entrance to every ward before coming in and after you leave. You may need to wash your hands at the sink using soap and water. Hand sanitisers are not suitable for dealing with patients who have symptoms of diarrhoea.

More help or advice

Contact our patient advice and liaison service (PALS) on 01296 316042 or

About our patient information

We aim to make the information as up to date and accurate as possible, but please note that it’s subject to change. You must always check specific advice on any concerns you may have with your doctor.

Breast Unit
Breast Screening Breast Care Nurse
Surgical Breast Care Nurses
Breast Unit

01494 323300

Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 4.30pm.

Breast Screening Breast Care Nurse

01494 426109

Surgical Breast Care Nurses

01494 426228