We offer Diagnostic and Interventionist Radiology Services across Birmingham and the West Midlands.


Imaging is central to the identification of potential problems that might be cancer. Early diagnosis is crucial to effective and potentially curative treatments. A biopsy (small tissue sample) is frequently needed to make the diagnosis. Expert image guided targeting can accurately take a small sample with minimal risk / complications.

In some cases cancer tumours are vascular (have a large blood supply) which means they often grow quickly causing problems locally and also for potential surgery. Embolisation (blocking of arteries) can be used to target the cancer and block the blood supply causing shrinkage to the cancer.

In other cases the cancer can block important structures e.g. the ureter causing blockage of the kidneys or bile duct causing jaundice, which can make you very unwell. Minimally invasive procedures can bypass the obstruction to relieve the immediate symptoms, after which we can place special plastic or metal stents to provide a permanent long term. These procedures are often referred to as Nephrostomy (drainage of the kidney), Antegrade Ureteric Stent (internal drainage of the kidney to bladder), Biliary drainage (drainage of a bile duct) and biliary stent.

What is an Image Guided Biopsy Procedure?

Imaging with CT and MRI can now identify focal abnormalities, which can occasionally represent early cancer. These masses can be large but more commonly are detected small with modern scanners. A biopsy allows a small piece of tissue to be obtained and sent to the laboratory for a diagnosis. This then allows your doctor to plan appropriate treatment. It must be remembered that not all biopsies will be cancer; a lot of the small masses are benign.

When do patients require an Image Guided Biopsy to be performed?

When masses are only seen with imaging it can be difficult to target them to obtain a small tissue sample for examination and diagnosis. The use of image guided techniques, commonly with ultrasound or CT scanners has revolutionised the ability to obtain samples from very small masses in very difficult places with a simple safe day-case procedure.

What happens during the drainage procedure?

An image guided biopsy is performed as a day-case with local anaesthesia and/or a sedative. You will be asked to get undressed and put on a hospital gown and, depending on the imaging used you will be asked to sit or lie down in a comfortable position. A biopsy is performed under sterile conditions, your skin will be prepped with antiseptic fluid and you will be covered with sterile drapes. The skin will be numbed using local anaesthetic, which can occasionally sting for 20-30 seconds. The biopsy needle is then inserted and guided with imaging to the target, a small sample is then taken. Biopsy procedures are extremely safe, but with any medical procedure there are some risks. These risks depend on where the biopsy sample is obtained but in general the main risks are bleeding, infection and failing to obtain a sample that can diagnose the problem.

How should I prepare?

You may need to be admitted as a day-case in the hospital, although some biopsies are performed as an outpatient. You will often (but not always) have had some blood tests performed beforehand to check that you do not have an increased risk of bleeding. You may be asked not to eat for 4hrs before the procedure, although you may still drink clear fluids such as water for up to 2hrs prior.