Give Me Novocaine

syringeI had a completely different post made up for the end of this week about a journey I’ve been on following some “suspicious” clusters found on a mammogram.   I’ve been writing it as I go, about the actual physical process and the mental anxiety that accompanies a “non-normal” result.   The plan was for me to get a biopsy done on Tuesday and receive the results on Friday morning.

Fate threw a big old monkey-wrench into those plans.

I was all set up on the table to get a stereotactic biopsy, face down, strapped in and given the lidocaine injections to numb the area.  The doctor was a specialist that was in town to train several technicians on some upgraded software for the computerized machinery that guide the place of the probe and needle used to take the samples.  There were also a few technicians and audience of observers from other facilities being trained.

The doctor stated that the slight pain and burning of the lidocaine would be the last sensations (other than some pressure and/or pulling) I would feel during the procedure.  What no one, including myself, realized is that apparently, I’m one of the few people that lidocaine doesn’t work on.

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~This is supposed to be actual size of the probe.~

I heard the hydraulic hiss and a “thunk” as the machine fired the probe into my breast.  Yes, I said “fired”.  Not eased in like an needle, but FIRED.  And I felt an intense, searing pain of a like I’ve never felt before that I have no words to begin to describe.  Not through fractured bones, child-birth, a c-section, many other medical procedures and even a tattoo.

When someone is stabbed or shot in a movie, they usually clutch at the area, fall down with some moaning and heavy breathing.  Reality is much different.

There was no beautiful fade into unconsciousness like on film.  There was the screaming (mine), the shouting for more lidocaine (the doctor), two people trying to hold me flat to the table as my uncontrollable crying and shaking from the pain was causing me to hyperventilate and then the burning as the additional lidocaine was being injected.

It took a good ten minutes for me to get myself under control.  I was still in excruciating pain but they wanted to continue with the procedure and needed me to stop shaking so they could put the needle down to the probe and take samples.

It happened again.  I wasn’t numb at all and felt the cutting and tearing as they tried to remove some tissue.  More screams, sobbing, snot and drool pooling under my face and two more shots of lidocaine later, they ushered all the observers out.  I was left with the doctor, two technicians and two nurses apologizing all over themselves and debating whether to keep trying or end the procedure.  We all finally came to the decision to try to ease the needle in and if I still felt any pain, we’d stop.

Even after six lidocaine injections, I still felt the sharp pain as they tried a third time.  The doctor made the decision to abort the procedure.  He seemed almost as visibly shaken as I was and stated that this kind of thing is so rare, it had never happened to him.  Apparently, even though the surface area of my skin numbed with the anesthetic, the deep tissue did not.

The nurses managed to get me released from the table and onto my back while holding pressure on the open wound that was now double the size of normal due to me jerking from the pain and tearing through my own tissue.  I was bandaged up with steri-strips and a dressing, then eased up into a sitting position.

That’s when the aftermath began.  Lidocaine has epinephrine (adrenaline) in it.  The tremors and panic attack started almost immediately and I broke down into crying fits again.  My hands were shaking so hard I couldn’t even button my shirt and the water in the small styrofoam cup kept sloshing out.

I was supposed to be able to drive home after the procedure, but between the trauma and the effects of the epinephrine, they refused to release me unless someone could come pick me up.  They sat me in a back office waiting area amidst other patients waiting for their biopsies.  Not really a good plan as I was bombarded by scared questions as soon as the nurses left.

I won’t go into the normal pain and aftercare of the procedure because its really what you’d expect.  But the shaking and anxiety-caused crying fits lasted a good hour and a half.  I’ve had nightmares of the pain never-ending every time I’ve slept.  Since the doctor couldn’t get a tissue sample of the suspicious area, I’ll have another round of mammography and ultrasounds in two months.  If there is any change, he wants to do a surgical biopsy under general anesthesia.  Even though I’ve had general before, now I’m terrified at the thought of it maybe not working right and being outwardly unconscious, but aware and able to feel pain.  I’ve lost the faith I had in doctors assuring me that I wouldn’t feel pain.

The incident just happened on Tuesday and logically I realize its normal that I’m still a wreck.  Every time I think of the incident, my mind flashes to that pain and an acute anxiety overtakes me.  I feel like I can’t breathe and I can’t stop crying.  I’m not used to being so out of control.

Time usually eases traumatic memories.  I hope this is one that fades and I hope its soon.

Dream signature


  1. katecrimmins

    Oh yes, I was there with you. First off, no matter what they say lidocaine does not kill the pain deep down. I had a biopsy done by a radiologist with my boob hanging through a hole in the table in a mammogram vise on the other side. She used so much lidocaine (and yes it stings going in) that all she could see was the pools of lidocaine. In and out and in and out for 45 minutes. I was crying and the tears were running done my boob! I refuse to have another one of those. A few years later I had a biopsy done by my cancer surgeon. I was sitting up (slightly) and he used an ultrasound to track the mass instead of the squeezing mammogram machine. He was quicker and it was more comfortable. In fact, I can’t remember what he used to numb the area. For me it was more than the lidocaine that made the first one so horrible but if I had to do another, it would be with a surgeon and some other kind of anesthesia. Hope your results come out negative.

    • Dream

      I had the same kind of procedure/table. Not exactly comfortable to begin with. But I had done some research beforehand and saw so many women saying that it was no big deal and painless except for the lidocaine injection that I wasn’t really nervous about that part of the process. I’m in complete agreement with you though that I will NEVER attempt another procedure using just a local anesthetic.

  2. Lance

    Best wishes you and your boobs. Is that what I’m supposed to say?

    Now I feel weird…hang in there, dude

  3. Woman in the Middle

    I had a breast biopsy at the beginning of the year. I was lying on my back and they used an untrasound machine to find the spot and take the tissue. The numbing shots stung a little but otherwise worked like a dream. I truely felt only pressue and there was virtually no pain. I am so so sorry your procedure didn’t go so smoothly. I just wanted you (and everyone else) to know that breast biopsies can be pain free and no big deal. My your boobs never have to deal with such an ordeal again!!!

    • Dream

      Thanks for sharing your experience. That’s pretty much what I’d expected before I went for mine, sort of a non-event. Since most do go smoothly, that’s why I made sure to mention that my situation was an usual one related strictly to my own body chemistry and resistance to the lidocaine. Its also why I didn’t share the story on the forum where I had a few questions answered prior to having the procedure. I certainly didn’t want to cause anxiety to any others that had biopsies scheduled.

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