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Tests and Treatments


Occasionally it's necessary to perform a biopsy—taking a small sample of tissue for testing. The medical experts in our nationally renowned Neuromuscular Disease Center uses state-of-the-art techniques for sampling and processing tissues, while minimizing patient inconvenience and discomfort.

There Are Three Basic Types of Biopsies

Muscle Biopsy

A sample of muscle tissue usually can be obtained by poking the skin with a needle. This spares the patient the discomfort and risk associated with the more invasive open biopsy procedure.

Needle biopsies are performed in an outpatient clinic or in the hospital at bedside. Patients with severe muscle atrophy commonly need to undergo open biopsy, performed in Highland Hospital's Ambulatory Care Center.

Patients experiencing the following symptoms may need a muscle biopsy:

  • Unexplained weakness or muscle pain
  • Unexplained elevations in serum creatine kinase (CK) levels
  • Recurrent rhabdomyolysis (the destruction or degeneration of skeletal muscle tissue)

Nerve Biopsy

Patients experiencing peripheral neuropathies possibly due to amyloidosis, vasculitis or other inflammatory or immune-mediated conditions should have a nerve biopsy.

A nerve biopsy is a more challenging procedure because it often involves the brain or spinal cord. Samples of complex nerves are usually collected in an open biopsy procedure, performed in the Ambulatory Care Center at Strong Memorial Hospital.

Skin Biopsy

A punch skin biopsy can be used to evaluate certain sensory nerve fibers. In some cases this simple, minimally invasive procedure can replace nerve conduction studies and an EMG.

Skin biopsies are typically taken at the ankle or thigh nearest to the disorder. But the location depends on the patient's condition. They can help diagnose:

  • The cause of unexplained burning, numbness, or tingling in a patient's feet or legs
  • The presence and severity of sensory neuropathy when nerve conduction studies and EMG are not conclusive
  • A central nervous system cause (e.g., multiple sclerosis) for numbness, tingling or other conditions that do not cause loss of epidermal nerve fibers
  • Small fiber neuropathy as a cause of late-onset restless leg syndrome