Heart Biopsy

What is a Heart Biopsy?

A heart biopsy (BY-op-see) is a test to see if there are any abnormalities in the muscle tissue of the heart.

Doctors use a small set of tweezers to take a sample of heart tissue.

Why Might My Child Need a Heart Biopsy?

Your child's doctor at the Heart Institute at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh might order a heart biopsy to check for:

  • Weaknesses or changes in the heart muscle structure.
  • Weak heart pumping.
  • Other heart function problems.
  • Rejection after a heart transplant.

What Happens During a Heart Biopsy?

The doctor will perform a biopsy during a cardiac catheterization (heart cath).

A heart cath is a minimally invasive technique that allows the doctor to look at the heart from the inside using special catheters and a type of x-ray called fluoroscopy (floor-OS-co-pee).

During your child's heart cath and biopsy, the doctor will:

  • Place very thin, flexible tubes called — called “catheters” — in the neck vein or sometimes the leg vein.
  • Gently push the catheter through the blood vessels and into the heart using fluoroscopy to guide the placement.
  • Insert a smaller catheter — that has tiny tweezers on the end of it — through the catheter that's in position inside the heart.
  • Use the tweezers to take a small sample of heart tissue and pull it back through the catheter.

We will send the tissue sample to the lab for testing. Results of your child's heart biopsy will be ready the next day.

Learn More About Heart Biopsies

To learn more about heart biopsies at Children's: