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Vacuum assisted excision (VAE)

Read our guide below about a vacuum assisted excision (VAE)

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

What is vacuum assisted excision (VAE)?

It’s is a non-surgical procedure used to get larger samples of breast tissue than from a standard breast biopsy. This is either from areas of the breast that need more breast tissue for
analysis or to remove non-cancerous (benign) lumps in the breast.

VAE is a minimally invasive procedure that doesn’t need admission to hospital or a general anaesthetic.  A specialist needle is inserted into the breast and a combination of cutting and sucking removes the required breast tissue.

Do I need to do anything before the procedure?

You must tell us if you have any allergies, especially to medicines or metal. Also, tell us if you’re having any treatment or medicine to thin your blood.

You can eat and drink normally. Please bring a list of your medication with you and take any regular medication as usual.

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, a clinician will explain the procedure to you and ask for your written consent to go ahead. You can either sit or lie down for the procedure. An x-ray machine or ultrasound will locate the are of breast tissue that needs removing.

You’ll have a local anaesthetic to numb the area which may sting a little as the injection goes in.

The clinician will use a needle attached to a suction device and put it into the numbed area. This process removes small amounts of breast tissue. The clinician repeats this until they’ve taken the required amount of tissue. They use ultrasound images or serial mammograms to monitor the process.

At the end of the procedure, the clinician might put a tiny titanium marker in the breast tissue to show where they took the tissue from. This will stay in your breast but you won’t be able to feel it.

This marker will show on any future breast ultrasound scans or mammograms. If you need surgical excision of the area after analysis of the sample, we’ll remove this marker with the breast tissue that’s been removed.

The titanium marker is MRI compatible and won’t cause any problem if you 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 use slim adhesive strips to close the small cut which should be left on and kept dry for 2 to 3 days.

You’ll need to stay in the Breast Unit for 30 to 60 minutes after we apply the dressing. This is to check that we’re happy there’s no bleeding before you go home.

What might I expect after the procedure?

Bruising is common 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.

If the bleeding doesn’t stop contact the breast unit on 01494 323300, your GP or A&E. Take a copy of this information with you so they know what procedure you’ve had done.

You can relieve any aching or tenderness by taking a painkiller such as paracetamol. Avoid taking aspirin or ibuprofen for the first 24 hours as they can 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.

Contact us

Breast Unit
Breast Unit

01494 323300

Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 4.30pm.