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Wire Localization Procedure - Breast Biopsy or Lumpectomy

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Updated May 16, 2014

What to Expect During Your Wire Localization Procedure:

Wire localization is a technique that is used to mark the location of a breast abnormality that is quite small, or that can't be easily found by touch. This procedure ensures greater accuracy for a breast biopsy or lumpectomy. Your surgeon will use the wire as a guide to the tissue that needs to be removed. Since mammograms will be taken first, ask your radiologist if you can use Lidocaine gel to numb your breast before the procedure.

Getting The Right Picture at the Right Place:

Your wire localization will be done in the Radiology Department of the hospital or surgical center where your breast biopsy or lumpectomy is scheduled. Mammograms (or in some cases, ultrasound images) must be taken to show the location of the breast abnormality. You will need to undrape the affected breast, and get into position for a mammogram. Special equipment, such as a paddle-shaped compression device may be used during your mammogram. It may be necessary to take several images, in order to find the exact location of your lump or area of concern.

Preventing Breast Pain:

You will be awake during the placement of the wire, but your breast will be numbed so that you won't feel pain from the needle or the wire. Your radiologist will inject a local anesthetic, to numb your breast before the wire placement. You may feel a small sting from the anesthetic needle, but as the anesthesia takes over, you should not notice any other pain. It is possible to feel pressure or pulling sensations during the wire placement, and some women said that they felt faint or dizzy during the procedure. If you feel anything that is uncomfortable, let your radiologist know right away, so they can help you.

Inserting the Wire:

Now that images have been taken, and your breast has been numbed, your radiologist will use a very fine needle (smaller than is used for a blood draw) to target your breast abnormality. The tip of this needle must rest in the location that your surgeon needs to find, in order to remove the right tissue. A slender wire will be threaded down through the needle and out of its tip, to lodge at the target tissue. The needle will be removed, leaving the wire in place.

Double-Checking the Wire Location:

With the wire in place, you will have another mammogram, to check that the tip of the wire is properly positioned. If the wire is not in the correct place, your radiologist will reposition and re-check it, to ensure accurate placement. When the wire is finally positioned, it will be secured in place with tape or a bandage.

Timing of Your Wire Localization With Other Procedures:

Your wire localization procedure can take about an hour, and is usually scheduled two hours before your biopsy or lumpectomy. When the wire has been properly placed and secured in position, you will be ready for your next procedure. The wire will be removed, along with some breast tissue, during your surgery.

Sources:

American Cancer Society. Mammograms and Other Breast Imaging Procedures. Surgical Biopsy, Wire localization. Revised: 09/26/2007.

Ohio State University Medical Center. Needle-Wire Localization for Breast Biopsy. Published 2006, PDF document.

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