Percutaneous, stereotactic, vacuum-assisted biopsy has become a widely used alternative to open surgical biopsy for the initial diagnosis of breast calcifications. We retrospectively assessed the accuracy of the technique in the diagnoses of malignancy and atypical hyperplasia by correlation with the findings of the subsequent surgical excision. We studied 330 consecutive cases of breast calcifications, 216 (65.5%) of which were determined to be benign and 114 (34.5%) to be malignant or atypical at vacuum-assisted biopsy using an 11 gauge instrument. Of the latter 93 were available for comparison with the subsequent surgery, the specific diagnoses as revealed by percutaneous biopsy were as follows: 11 cases of atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADN), 67 cases of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), 6 infiltrating ductal carcinomas (IFDC), 2 cases of atypical lobular hyperplasia and 7 of lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS). At histological analysis after surgical excision, 3 (27%) of 11 cases previously diagnosed as ADH and 6 (9%) of 67 cases diagnosed as DCIS were shown to actually be higher grade lesions (DCIS/IFDC and IFDC, respectively). Of the 7 lesions diagnosed at vacuum-assisted biopsy as LCIS, surgery and histological analysis showed one infiltrating globular carcinoma and two DCIS. A total of 21 lesions (4 ADH, 14 DCIS, 1 IFDC, 2 LCIS) were completely removed at percutaneous biopsy; the remaining cases were found totally concordant. These data Indicate a substantial accuracy of the percutaneous biopsy: some lesions (particularly those thought to be ADH and DCIS) can be underestimated for sampling error.