Surgical Breast Biopsy Not Overused, Study Suggests

Published: Monday, Mar 19, 2012
woman and doctor Contrary to earlier findings, surgical breast biopsies may not be as overused as previously thought, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

A previous study estimated that surgery is used for 30% of breast biopsies. Surgical breast biopsies are more invasive than needle biopsies, requiring an incision and the use of general anesthesia.

The researchers of the current study thought that the earlier report might overstate the percentage of biopsies performed as surgical biopsies. As a result, they sought to more accurately assess the use of needle biopsy compared with surgical biopsy.

The nationwide Medicare Part B databases for 2004 to 2009 were used to look at the number of codes for 5 different types of breast biopsies, including needle biopsy with imaging, needle biopsy without imaging, and surgical biopsy.

The Medicare data indicated that the true surgical breast biopsy figure is somewhere between 2% and 18%, and probably close to 11%.

"In the Medicare population nationwide, it seems the use of surgical biopsy is substantially less than the 30% previously alleged," said David C. Levin, MD, lead author and professor of Radiology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. "Given that the recommended rate is 10%, it seems that surgeons and radiologists are collaborating well and that surgical breast biopsy is not being overused."


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