A nerve biopsy is a procedure in which a sample of nerve tissue is removed from the body and examined in the laboratory. A nerve biopsy may be necessary to help diagnose the diseases of the nerves, also called neuropathy. Sensory nerves (nerves that transfer sensations like cold, heat or pain to the brain) are commonly subjected to biopsy. Other nerves are rarely biopsied.
A nerve biopsy is usually performed for the evaluation of infectious, hereditary, or autoimmune (when the body is attacked by its own immune system) neuropathies.
A nerve biopsy is performed on an outpatient basis. To perform a nerve biopsy, you will be asked to lie down on your side. The biopsy site is sterilised, and local anaesthesia administered. A 2-4 cm incision is then made in the skin overlying the nerve. The nerve is then located and a 2-4 cm section of nerve is excised. You may experience a tingling sensation during the procedure. The skin is then closed with sutures and a dressing applied. You will need to rest for at least 24 hours and elevate the site to avoid complications.
Following the procedure, there may be temporary or permanent numbness in the overlying skin. Other rare complications include bleeding, infection, pain, abnormal sensation or neuroma formation (abnormal growth of nerve tissue).