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What is Gastric Biopsy?

A biopsy is the act of removing samples of tissues or cells from one area of the body for microscopic analysis. A biopsy can be taken from any area in the cat’s body, but a gastric biopsy is a biopsy of the gastrointestinal tract. The gastrointestinal tract is composed of the large intestine, small intestine and stomach, therefore, samples can be taken from any of these areas when we are talking about a gastric biopsy. A gastric biopsy is commonly recommended by veterinarians when all other routine tests have not pinpointed the reasons behind a cat’s chronic gastrointestinal upset. The tissues are collected by a veterinary surgeon and submitted to a laboratory for histopathology, or an analysis by a veterinary pathologist. 

Gastric Biopsy Procedure in Cats

Prior to performing a gastric biopsy in a cat, clinical signs of gastrointestinal distress will be evaluated through blood, fecal, and urine analysis, in addition to radiographs or ultrasonography. 

A gastric biopsy is characterized by the obtainment of tissues from the large intestine, small intestine and/or stomach. The veterinarian can collect these tissues from your cat one of two ways: surgically or with the help of an endoscope. A gastric biopsy collected surgically is performed by laparotomy (creating an incision in the cat’s abdomen) or laparoscopy (keyhole surgical incision). Whereas an endoscopic biopsy is performed using a long, flexible tube with an attached video camera called an endoscope. 

Endoscopic Gastric Biopsy

Endoscopic biopsy procedures are non-invasive, requiring general anesthesia and no surgical incisions. The endoscope will be introduced into the cat’s body through the mouth or rectum and passed into the gastrointestinal system. The camera will allow the veterinarian to inspect the insides of the feline, while a forceps allows the vet to grasp a small section of tissue to collect for biopsy evaluation. 

Surgical Gastric Biopsy

A surgical gastric biopsy is an invasive surgery that will require the veterinary surgeon to create an incision in the feline’s abdominal wall. General anesthesia will be required in addition to pain management medications and an antibiotic. A great advantage to surgical gastric biopsies is that more than one layer of the stomach or intestinal lining can be taken as a sample. At the same time, a biopsy can be taken from surrounding lymph nodes or other organs involved in the chronic problem. 

Efficacy of Gastric Biopsy in Cats

A gastric biopsy is the most efficient way of identifying an underlying condition that cannot be detected through routine diagnostic tests. Although cost effective and non-invasive, an endoscopic gastric biopsy is not as effective as a surgical gastric biopsy. An endoscopic biopsy can only take a small simple of the outermost layers of the organ, whereas a surgical technique can allow a larger sample of all gastric layers to be taken. 

Gastric Biopsy Recovery in Cats

The cat will require a short period of in-hospital recovery time to wake up from anesthesia. If the feline has undergone a surgical biopsy, an Elizabethan collar will likely be sent home with the patient to prevent chewing, licking or manipulating the affected area. Results of the biopsy are typically available one to two weeks after the procedure.

Cost of Gastric Biopsy in Cats

The estimated cost for a gastric biopsy in cats is roughly $143, but greatly depends on the type of biopsy performed. Initial workups, such as the initial examination, blood work, radiographs and other diagnostic imagery, can bring your total cost anywhere from $450-$700. 

Cat Gastric Biopsy Considerations

A biopsy can provide vital information about your cat’s condition to the veterinarian, but general anesthesia is often a concern for cat owners. If your cat is already ill, a surgical biopsy can be risky and may not be the best option for all patients. It is for this reason that discussing your biopsy option with your veterinarian prior to surgery is crucial. 

Gastric Biopsy Prevention in Cats

The need for a biopsy in a cat cannot always be prevented. A biopsy is often necessary to identify suspicious tissues and it is not until the biopsy is performed will a cat owner known how to prevent the feline’s illness.