Biopsy / Pathology

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You are considering undergoing a biopsy of the oral and maxillofacial area. A biopsy is a surgical procedure, in which a piece of tissue is removed and submitted to the pathologist, to be studied under a microscope to help in determining the diagnosis of an unknown or abnormal growth.

In general there are two types of biopsies:

  • EXCISIONAL in which the whole mass or abnormal tissue is excised and submitted
  • INCISIONAL where only a small representative piece is incised and submitted.

The incisional biopsy is done for larger masses, and lesions, where complete excision may leave a large defect. This type of biopsy also aids in determining the final treatment modality based on the nature of the mass.

Biopsy results usually take from 7-10 days to return, and results will usually be provided to you on your follow-up visit. In some instances, advanced microscopic modalities may be required, adding more time for the final diagnosis to be received.

Occasionally, the initial sample may not be representative, and an additional biopsy may be necessary to establish a final diagnosis.

The services provided by the pathologist are separate than those provided by the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department, and therefore you will be billed for those separately by the pathologist (bill from the pathology service).

Please do not hesitate to discuss any questions you may have directly with your doctor.


With an incisional biopsy a representative section of the entire problem is obtained. When this type of biopsy is performed you are getting only a sample of the problem. Sometimes the sample is not indicative of what the whole problem is, although this is unusual. That is why after an incisional biopsy is performed, Dr. Heffez obtains the preliminary diagnosis and then, removes the entire lesion weeks later. When the whole lesion is removed a final diagnosis is obtained. An excisional biopsy will usually reveal the final diagnosis immediately.

An incisional biopsy is performed when the lesion is so large that the wound created from the biopsy will require special attention. How a lesion is removed is many times dependent on the diagnosis. For example, if the diagnosis is cancer much more tissue needs to be removed and this is better done as planned operation. Hence a small piece is obtained, the diagnosis is secured, perhaps additional tests are obtained and then, the final procedure is performed.

If the diagnosis is uncertain, Dr. Heffez frequently obtains a second diagnosis from another pathologist to confirm.

Yes! It is very important to return, so Dr. Heffez can discuss the results and see if additional treatment is necessary.

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