Needle Biopsy: Thyroid
(Fine-Needle Aspiration: Thyroid; Skinny-Needle Biopsy: Thyroid; Coarse-Needle Biopsy: Thyroid; Core Needle Biopsy: Thyroid)
A needle biopsy uses a needle to removal of a small piece of tissue or fluid for testing. In this case, the tissue is removed from the thyroid gland.
Reasons for Procedure
A thyroid biopsy is usually done when a lump is found in the thyroid. The lump is often called a thyroid nodule. These nodules are fairly common and usually do not need treatment. Only about 5% of nodules are cancerous.
The needle biopsy is usually done to see if a nodule is cancer. The biopsy may also be done if there is no nodule but the thyroid is enlarged.
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Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Bruising where the needle was inserted
- Pain after the procedure
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
In the days leading up to your procedure, you may have a physical exam and blood tests. Your doctor will talk with you about your medical history, including any allergies you may have. Talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking. You may be need to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure
You will need to arrange for a ride home from the care center.
Local anesthesia is used. The area that is affected will be numb.
You may also be given a sedative to help you relax
Description of the Procedure
There are 2 types of biopsies:
- Fine-needle aspiration (FNA)—most common
- Coarse-needle biopsy (CNB)
You will be asked to lie on your back. A pillow will be placed under your shoulders. Your neck will be extended. The site of the biopsy will be cleaned. For an FNA, your doctor will insert a tiny hollow needle into the nodule to collect a sample of tissue. For a CNB, your doctor will make a small cut in the skin. The needle will be inserted through the incision and into the thyroid to collect a sample. The process may need to be repeated several times. After the procedure, pressure will be applied to the biopsy site. A bandage will be applied.
In some cases, your doctor will use ultrasound to help locate the area that needs to be sampled. If ultrasound is used, the doctor will place a transducer on your neck. The transducer will send images to a screen for your doctor to view. These images will be used to locate the nodule and to guide the needle. This helps to make sure your doctor got a sample of the nodule and not the surrounding "normal" tissue.
How Long Will It Take?
About 10-30 minutes
Will It Hurt?
You may feel soreness at the biopsy site for 1-2 days. Talk to your doctor about medications that may help.
When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- If you had FNA, remove the bandage within a few hours. If you had CNB, remove the bandage in a few days.
- Avoid vigorous physical activity for 24 hours.
- Return to normal activities.
- Take over-the-counter pain medication as needed.
Call Your Doctor
Your doctor will need to check on your progress. It is important to go to any recommended appointments.
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
- Excessive neck swelling
- Unusual pain or discomfort
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services away.
American Thyroid Association
Thyroid Foundation of America
Thyroid Foundation of Canada
Ross DS. Fine needle aspiration biopsy of thyroid nodules/instructions for patients undergoing core needle biopsy. Thyroid Foundation of Canada website. Available at: http://www.thyroid.ca/e12b.php. Accessed October 10, 2017.
Thyroid nodule. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115781/Thyroid-nodule. Updated December 11, 2015. Accessed October 10, 2017.
Thyroid nodules. American Thyroid Association website. Available at: https://www.thyroid.org/thyroid-nodules. Accessed October 10, 2017.
Thyroid nodules. New York Thyroid Center website. Available at: http://columbiasurgery.org/conditions-and-treatments/thyroid-nodules. Accessed October 10, 2017.
Ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America Radiology website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=thyroidbiopsy. Updated June 21, 2016. Accessed October 10, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated: 9/30/2013