A needle biopsy removes a sample of cells for testing. The cells are drawn out with a small hollow needle. The cells are removed from the thyroid gland in the neck.
Reasons for Procedure
A thyroid biopsy is often done when a lump is found in the thyroid. The lump is often called a nodule. They are fairly common and often do not need treatment. The needle biopsy will look for cancer.
The biopsy may also be done to learn why the thyroid is enlarged.
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Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will talk to you about possible problems such as:
- Bruising where the needle was inserted
- Pain after the procedure
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Talk to your doctor about any medicine you are taking.
You may need to stop some medicine up to 1 week before the procedure
You will need to arrange for a ride home from the care center.
Local anesthesia is used. It will numb the area around the thyroid.
You may also be given a sedative. It will help you relax
Description of the Procedure
There are 2 types of biopsies:
You will be asked to lie on your back. A pillow will be placed under your shoulders. The area will be cleaned. For an FNA, a tiny hollow needle will be passed into the nodule. A sample will be collected into the needle. For a CNB, your doctor will make a small cut in the skin. The needle will be passed through the cut and into the thyroid. A sample will be collected into the needle. The process may need to be repeated several times. Pressure will be applied over the area once samples are collected. A bandage will be applied.
An ultrasound may be used to help locate the area. A handheld device will be placed on your neck. It will show the doctor where the needle is. It will help to make sure the nodule and not normal tissue is sampled.
How Long Will It Take?
About 10 to 30 minutes
Will It Hurt?
The site may be sore for 1 to 2 days. Medicine can help to ease discomfort.
Some activity will need to be limited in first 1 to 2 days.
Call Your Doctor
Let the doctor know if recovery is not going as expected or you have problems such as:
- 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 right away.
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 January 8, 2020.
Thyroid nodules. American Thyroid Association website. Available at: https://www.thyroid.org/thyroid-nodules. Accessed January 8, 2020.
Thyroid nodule. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/thyroid-nodule. Updated March 19, 2019. Accessed January 8, 2020.
Thyroid nodules. New York Thyroid Center website. Available at: http://columbiasurgery.org/conditions-and-treatments/thyroid-nodules. Accessed January 8, 2020.
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 March 30, 2018. Accessed January 8, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA
Last Updated: 10/2/2020