A biopsy is a procedure to remove a tissue sample. In a fine needle biopsy (FNB), fluid and cells are removed with a thin, hollow needle.
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Reasons for Procedure
FNB is used to study organ or tumor tissue. The sample may show unusual cells, disease, infection, or inflammation.
FNB may also be done to find out how certain treatments are working.
Problems are rare, but no procedure is free of risk. The problems you may have will depend on the site of the FNB. Your doctor will review a list of problems, which may include:
Factors that may raise the risk of problems include:
- Certain medicines that increase the risk of bleeding
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Ask your doctor if there is anything you should do before the FNB. Your doctor may ask you to:
- Arrange for a ride home.
- Have routine blood work.
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to 1 week before the FNB.
Just before the test, you may be asked to drink a contrast material. This drink will make images clearer on x-rays or CT scans.
Local anesthesia is often used. It will make the site numb. A medicine called a sedative may also be used to help you relax.
Description of the Procedure
You will be positioned for the easiest access to the site. The site where the needle will be inserted will be cleaned. Anesthesia will be applied to numb the site. You will be asked to stay still. A thin, hollow needle will then be inserted through the skin to the site. The needle may need to be inserted more than once. The images may be checked to make sure the needle is in the right place. After the needle is in the proper place, tissue or fluid will be withdrawn. You may feel a pinch, pressure, or nothing at all. The needle will be removed after the sample is taken. The site will be bandaged.
How Long Will It Take?
How long it takes will depend on the site that is sampled:
- Simple FNB of a site that is close to the surface of the skin: a few minutes in most cases
- Deeper FNB or one that is guided by an ultrasound or CT scan: 30-90 minutes
Will It Hurt?
The amount of pain you feel depends on the part of the body having the FNB. The anesthesia and sedative will prevent pain. You may feel a pinch or pressure. If you feel pain, tell the doctor right away.
The site will be tender after the FNB. Talk to your doctor about medicine to help manage pain.
The site may bruise.
The sample will be studied by a specialist. The results are usually ready in a few days. Your doctor will talk to you about the results.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you have:
- Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
- Pain, redness, swelling, heat, discharge, or a red streak in the site of the needle insertion
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- New or unexpected symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Cancer Institute
Biopsy for breast cancer diagnosis: Fine needle aspiration biopsy. UCSF Health website. Available at: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/biopsy_for_breast_cancer_diagnosis/fine_needle_aspiration_biopsy/index.html. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Fine needle aspiration biopsy. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/fine-needle-aspiration. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Fine needle aspiration, fluid aspiration, and/or core biopsy. National Institute of Health Patient Education website. Available at: https://www.cc.nih.gov/ccc/patient_education/procdiag/irbiopsy.pdf. Accessed March 26, 2018.
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Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated: 5/16/2018