Myocardial Biopsy

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

A myocardial biopsy, also known as a heart biopsy, is a procedure in which small samples of heart tissue are removed and sent to a laboratory for analysis. This procedure is performed with a special catheter that has a small grasping device on the end. A catheter is a long, narrow tube that is inserted into a blood vessel and guided to your heart with the help of an X-ray machine.

Doctors use myocardial biopsies to check for:

  • Cardiac amyloidosis (abnormal protein deposits in the heart tissue)
  • Signs of rejection after a heart transplant
  • Various types of cardiomyopathy (a heart muscle disease)

What to Expect Before a Myocardial Biopsy

Your doctor will give you specific instructions on what you can and cannot eat or drink the day of the test, and what medications you may or may not take. You will be asked to arrive 1 – 2 hours before your scheduled procedure time. 

Leave all jewelry and other valuables at home. Tell your doctors about any allergies you have.

When you come in for your biopsy, you will be asked to change into a gown. We may draw some blood work before the procedure and you may also have an IV line placed to give you medications during the procedure.

During and After a Myocardial Biopsy

When you enter the cath lab, you will be moved to a special table and we will give you warm blankets to help keep you comfortable.  You may receive a mild sedative to help you relax, although you will remain awake and conscious during the procedure. Your doctor will decide if a mild sedative is appropriate for you.

We may use a medication to numb the area where your doctor will be performing the procedure. With this procedure, a puncture is made instead of an incision.

During the myocardial biopsy, a special grasping catheter is inserted into your neck or leg vein and threaded through a blood vessel to your heart. The grasping device will obtain several small pieces of heart tissue, about the size of a pinhead. Typically 3 ­– 5 samples are taken.

Your doctor may also want to take some pressure readings from inside the heart chambers as well. You should not feel any pain during your procedure, but you may feel some pressure sensations. After the samples and/or pressure readings are collected, the catheter will be removed and firm pressure will be held over the insertion site to prevent bleeding.

The procedure takes about 30 to 60 minutes. Depending on whether the doctor used the groin or neck site, you may be observed for several hours afterward, or you may go home shortly after your procedure. Your doctor may also want to see you in the office after your recovery time is complete. If the doctor used a groin approach and/or you received sedation, you will need someone to drive you home. 

Your doctor or nurse will provide information on how to care for your wound site and when to resume your regular diet and activities.

To learn more, download our Heart Biopsy information (PDF, 33 KB).

A Leader in Cardiovascular Care

Aurora has the largest cardiac teaching program in Wisconsin, which enables us to gain access the most recent technologies for diagnosing and treating heart disease. We work closely with Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center Transplant Services, which helps patients with end-stage organ failure live will through advanced medical and surgical therapies, including heart transplants.

Our coordinated care includes access to outstanding doctors and services for preventing, diagnosing and treating heart conditions and disorders. We offer a full-service rehab program to ensure your optimal recovery.

Our doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or heart specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.