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Thyroid Fine-Needle Aspiration Biopsy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 3, 2023.

What do I need to know about thyroid fine-needle aspiration biopsy?

Thyroid fine-needle aspiration biopsy is a procedure to remove tissue and fluid from a nodule (lump) in your thyroid gland. This test helps your healthcare provider diagnose thyroid cancer or find thyroid nodules that are not cancer. Your healthcare provider uses the results to decide if you need more treatment.

Thyroid and Parathyroid Glands

How do I prepare for the procedure?

  • Your healthcare provider will tell you how to prepare. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink for a certain time before the procedure. Arrange to have someone drive you home after the procedure.
  • You may need a CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, or other tests. You may also need blood tests.
  • If you are a woman, tell your healthcare provider if you know or think you may be pregnant.
  • Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines, herbs, or supplements you currently take. He or she will tell you if you need to stop any for the procedure, and when to stop. Your provider will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure.
  • Tell your provider if you have a condition that affects blood clotting, such as liver disease, kidney disease, hemophilia, or thrombocytopenia. Tell him or her about your current and past medical conditions, and any treatment you received. Also tell him or her if you or anyone in your family had thyroid disease or thyroid cancer.

What will happen during the procedure?

  • You will lie on your back with your neck raised. Anesthesia may be injected in your neck to numb the area. Your healthcare provider may be able to find the nodules easily by feeling your neck with his or her fingers. He or she may use ultrasound to find the nodules or see them better.
  • Your provider will insert a thin needle into the nodule and remove tissue and fluid. You may feel pressure or pulling as he or she rotates the needle to different areas within the nodule. Tell your provider if you feel sudden or severe pain. You may need tissue removed from more than 1 nodule. You may also need tissue removed from the lymph nodes in your neck.
  • Pressure will be applied to your neck for 2 or 3 minutes to help prevent bleeding and other complications. The fluid and tissue samples will be sent to a lab for tests.

What should I expect after the procedure?

  • A healthcare provider will watch you for about 30 minutes to see if you have any swelling or bruising.
  • A cold compress or ice bag may be placed on your neck to ease swelling and discomfort.
  • Ask how and when you can find out the results of your biopsy. Ask if you need any other follow-up visits, tests, or procedures.

What are the risks of thyroid fine-needle aspiration biopsy?

  • Not enough tissue may be collected. The tissue could be removed from the wrong place or damaged during collection or storage. The lab results could fail to find cancer, or show that you have cancer when you do not. The procedure may need to be repeated.
  • A nodule that has been drained may fill with fluid again. Bleeding inside the nodule could form a new lump in your neck. Your trachea, carotid artery, or jugular vein could be damaged by the needle. You could have heavy internal bleeding. A small mass of blood (hematoma) can collect under the skin where the needle was inserted. A hematoma can be life-threatening if it grows large.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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