Optimization of initial prostate biopsy in clinical practice: Sampling, labeling and specimen processing

Marc A. Bjurlin, H. Ballentine Carter, Paul Schellhammer, Michael S. Cookson, Leonard G. Gomella, Dean Troyer, Thomas M. Wheeler, Steven Schlossberg, David F. Penson, Samir S. Taneja

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: An optimal prostate biopsy in clinical practice is based on a balance among adequate detection of clinically significant prostate cancers (sensitivity), assuredness regarding the accuracy of negative sampling (negative predictive value), limited detection of clinically insignificant cancers and good concordance with whole gland surgical pathology results to allow accurate risk stratification and disease localization for treatment selection. Inherent within this optimization is variation of the core number, location, labeling and processing for pathological evaluation. To date, there is no consensus in this regard. The purpose of this review is to 1) define the optimal number and location of biopsy cores during primary prostate biopsy among men with suspected prostate cancer, 2) define the optimal method of labeling prostate biopsy cores for pathological processing which will provide relevant and necessary clinical information for all potential clinical scenarios, and 3) determine the maximal number of prostate biopsy cores allowable within a specimen jar which would not preclude accurate histological evaluation of the tissue. Materials and Methods: A bibliographic search using PubMed® covering the period up to July 2012 yielded approximately 550 articles. Articles were reviewed and categorized based on which of the 3 objectives of this review was addressed. Data were extracted, analyzed and summarized. Recommendations are provided based on this literature review and our clinical experience. Results: The use of 10 to 12-core extended sampling protocols increases cancer detection rates compared to traditional sextant sampling methods and reduces the likelihood of repeat biopsy by increasing negative predictive value, ultimately allowing more accurate risk stratification without increasing the likelihood of detecting insignificant cancers. As the number of cores increases above 12, the increase in diagnostic yield becomes marginal. Only limited evidence supports the use of initial biopsy schemes involving more than 12 cores or saturation. Apical and laterally directed sampling of the peripheral zone increases cancer detection rate, reduces the need for repeat biopsies and predicts pathological features on prostatectomy while transition zone biopsies do not. There are little data to suggest that knowing the exact site of an individual positive biopsy core provides meaningful clinical information. However, determining laterality of cancer on biopsy may be helpful for predicting sites of extracapsular extension and therapeutic planning. Placement of multiple biopsy cores in a single container (greater than 2) appears to compromise pathological evaluation, which can reduce cancer detection rate and increase the likelihood of equivocal diagnoses. Conclusions: A 12-core systematic biopsy that incorporates apical and far-lateral cores in the template distribution allows maximal cancer detection, avoids repeat biopsy, and provides information adequate for identifying men who need therapy and planning that therapy while minimizing the detection of occult, indolent prostate cancers. This literature review does not provide compelling evidence that individual site specific labeling of cores benefits clinical decision making regarding the management of prostate cancer. Based on the available literature, we recommend packaging no more than 2 cores in each jar to avoid reduction of the cancer detection rate through inadequate tissue sampling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2039-2046
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • biopsy
  • pathology
  • prostatic neoplasms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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